FIRST NATION-WIDE STEPS MOVEMENT OF AN UNPRECEDENTED SCALE EXTENDED INTO SECONDARY SCHOOLS AND JUNIOR COLLEGES
HPB’s National Steps Challenge aims to break the monotony of a sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity, spurring Singaporeans to sit less and move more
Singapore, 19 February 2016
– The Health Promotion Board (HPB) today announced Rep with Steps, a school-based steps challenge for students in secondary schools and junior colleges which started this week. Rep with Steps, which means represent your school with steps, follows Steps for Good, a Challenge encouraging students to walk for charity, targeting Institutes of Higher Learning, and the National Steps Challenge, which targets the rest of the general population.
The National Steps Challenge is a social movement of unprecedented scale attracting over 156,000 participants to sit less and move more. Preliminary findings for the months of November and December 2015 revealed that of the adult participants who had collected their steps tracker, 63% continued to use it1. On average, participants are generally clocking about 7,500 steps daily2 with 30% hitting about 10,000 steps a day. Since the Challenge began, over 80% have accumulated enough steps to win prizes.
Designed to encourage Singaporeans with a sedentary lifestyle to sit less and move more, the National Steps Challenge leverages HPB’s Healthy 365 mobile application to nudge participants towards a more active lifestyle by taking more steps anytime, anywhere. This is also the first time the entire nation is engaged in a common physical activity goal on three different platforms – Steps for Good, National Steps Challenge and Rep with Steps. Leveraging on behavioural insights and technology, the Challenge nudges participants to take more steps daily, and rewards them for sustained behaviour, shifting the focus to a simple, behavioural change goal, such that it becomes a norm.
Walk for better health
Similar to the trend in other high income countries, Singaporeans have become increasingly sedentary and are spending less time on exercise3. The 2010 National Health Survey showed that 39% of adult Singaporeans between 18 to 69 years old do not have sufficient physical activity, with one in four of these inactive adults only achieving less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week. Studies4 have also shown that sedentary behaviours are prevalent among Singapore children, with two in three inactive youths failing to meet half of the recommended amount5 of physical activity. Coupling the lack of physical activity with consuming calories in excess has also led to the rise of the obesity prevalence in Singapore from 7% in 2004 to 11% in 20106.
Adopting the concept of incidental physical activity, the National Steps Challenge empowers Singaporeans to take responsibility for their health and wellbeing and track their progress with the aid of a steps tracker7 and HPB’s Healthy 365 mobile application. As participants accumulate steps, they can track their diet and see the total calories consumed and expended daily. Through this nation-wide initiative, HPB aims to influence a shift in lifestyle and behaviour so that taking more steps becomes the norm in an effort to counter a sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity.
“Walking more and breaking up sedentary time has been associated with improved health outcomes and better management of chronic diseases. Using technology as an enabler, the National Steps Challenge makes it easier to nudge Singaporeans to counter a sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity, with minimal adjustments to their daily routines, so that they may enjoy the benefits of a more active lifestyle. Ultimately, some physical activity is better than none,” said Minister of State, Ministry of Health, Mr Chee Hong Tat, who joined students at Woodgrove Secondary School this morning to mark the start of Rep with Steps this week at secondary schools and junior colleges.
Benefits of being physically active
Individuals do not need to be highly active to start reaping the benefits of being physically active. Relatively small increases in activity volume can bring along significant health benefits8. For an inactive adult who on average takes about 3,000 to 5,000 steps a day, walking the recommended 7,500 to 10,000 steps daily has been shown to reduce high blood pressure9, aid with glucose control10 (for those with Type 2 diabetes), lower blood cholesterol levels11, contributing to a 19% reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality.
Regular physical activity can also improve one’s mental wellbeing such as improved sleep quality, increased concentration, reducing one’s anxiety levels12 and is linked to a 50% reduction in the prevalence of depression13. In addition to the above benefits, regular physical activity also improves cognitive and motor functions in the elderly14, leading to a 30% lower risk of falls15.
The infographic in Annex A shows some of the minor adjustments Singaporeans can make to weave an additional 2,500 steps into their daily routine.
National Steps Challenge
Last year, HPB partnered several Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) including the Institute of Technical Education, Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic, to trigger a movement of a sit less, move more lifestyle. The IHL Challenge, Steps for Good, which ran for a period of eight weeks from October 2015, saw over 10,000 students clocking steps to raise funds for charitable causes adopted by their schools16.
The IHLs encouraged their students to participate in mass exercises to increase their step count. At the end of the IHL Challenge, the students had clocked about 2.2 billion steps, raising $38,000 for charity. The monies raised went to each IHL’s education fund to support needy students and the improvement of school facilities.
Replicating the success of the IHL Challenge, HPB is rolling out Rep with Steps to about 20,000 students from 27 secondary schools and junior colleges, which is set to run for 10 weeks. HPB will work closely with interested schools to organise booster activities such as the integration of mass exercises into curriculum time to encourage students to sit less and move more. The top eight schools with the highest average step count will receive cash prizes, with the first prize being $5,000. Information on Rep with Steps can be found in Annex B.
At the national level, HPB has also joined forces with several partners across different industries, such as sports and wellness companies and food and beverages establishments, to offer attractive sure-win prizes at different stages of the National Steps Challenge to spur and motivate participants on. Participants without smart phones and have no access to HPB’s Healthy 365 mobile application may go to participating Guardian and Sportslink outlets to sync and update their step count. More information on the National Steps Challenge can be found in Annex C. Annex D shows an overview of the challenge on all three platforms.
About Health Promotion Board
The Health Promotion Board was established as a statutory board under the Ministry of Health, Singapore, in 2001 with the vision of building “A Nation of Healthy People”. The Health Promotion Board aims to empower the people of Singapore to attain optimal health, increase the quality and years of healthy life and prevent illness, disability and premature death. As the key agency overseeing national health promotion and disease prevention programmes, HPB spearheads health education, promotion and prevention programmes as well as creates a health-supportive environment in Singapore. It develops and organises relevant health promotion and disease prevention programmes, reaching out to the healthy, the at-risk and the unhealthy at all stages of life – children, youths, adults and older Singapore residents. Its health promotion programmes include nutrition, mental health, physical activity, smoking control and communicable disease education. HPB also promotes healthy ageing, integrated health screening, and chronic disease education and management.
More information can be found at www.hpb.gov.sg