One Year On: Beat the Street has significant long-term benefits for families

Beat the Street has significant long-term benefits for inactive adults helping families and whole communities to get moving and keep active.

Beat the Street transforms adults’ activity levels, leading 71% of inactive adults (who do less than 30 minutes of physical exercise a week) that take part, to ditch their bad habits and change their behaviour according to its annual report.

Beat the Street is an initiative that uses gamification to encourage communities to get more active by walking, cycling, running or scooting between ‘Beat Boxes’ and scoring points for each one they tap. The national programme, supported by £3.3m of National Lottery funding from Sport England, has released a report showing the impact of the game a year after taking place in 10 towns and cities across the UK.

The programmes in Swindon, Torbay, Weymouth and Portland, Poole and Purbeck, Blaby, Leicester, East Northants, Salisbury and Amesbury, Gloucester and Barnsley have seen a total of 136,592 people get involved and travel more than 1 million miles together.

Beat the Street began in 2010 and has since helped communities around the world get more active together. It works by encouraging people to form teams and by touching RFID cards to the Beat Boxes, players score points for their teams and there are prizes for the teams that travel the furthest.

In total, 310 adults provided data on their physical activity levels at the time of registration, immediately after the game and then at 6 months post-game. The change in activity levels is significant and dramatic with the proportion of participants reporting being inactive (doing less than the Chief Medical Officer’s guideline of 150 minutes of activity a week for adults) decreasing from 18% to 10% immediately post-game and was sustained at 10% six months later.

Other significant findings:

  • Within the communities that have taken part, 98% of primary schools took part and on average 59% of children played.
  • The aim of the game is to get whole communities moving, and 49% of participants are adults, and 72% of registered adults are women.
  • 71% of inactive adults were lifted into activity
  • 66% of inactive participants living in the top 20% most deprived areas were lifted into activity following the programme.
  • Of children that started as less active, 58% became fairly active, or active, post-game and 46% were fairly active, or active, after six months
  • The NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) return on investment tool for physical activity indicates that these 10 programmes will provide a combined return of £15million over two years

Beat the Street works with local stakeholders to ensure that the game complements the specific health, environmental and economic needs of each area and provides a platform to promote local and national campaigns with the intention of engaging as wide an audience as possible.

For example, partner funding came from Wiltshire County Council as part of the area’s recovery plan after the Novichok incident in 2018; the most tapped Beat Box was in the town centre and 74% of participants in Salisbury said they had visited or returned to areas in the city.

In Blaby, there was a third reduction in air pollution outside schools in the town with funding from Blaby Air Quality fund.

In Swindon, six months after the game, physical inactivity had decreased by 8% in adults and 44% in children. Swindon has now recommissioned Beat the Street for a second year and is well on its way to breaking its own record for the most miles travelled in a game which stands at 313,000 miles in just six weeks.

Beat the Street has also created themed weeks to support local partnership work. Each ‘Go’ theme has its own week and allows partners to populate it with its own events and activities. Leicester’s Beat the Street campaign helped with the set-up of a new junior park run in the city and ‘Go Wild’ Week led to a 45% increase in activity in 10 parks (based on the previous week’s Beat Box data) and a threefold increase in activity at Beaumont Park in the most deprived area of the Leicester programme.

The ‘Go Active’ week in Barnsley delivered a programme of events including partners ranging from the RSPB to English Heritage, Barnsley FC, leisure centres and local sports clubs including open water swimming.

The ‘Go Travel’ week in Salisbury saw the local engagement co-ordinator support the delivery of a school active travel app and in Gloucester, the winners of the community team leader board donated their prize money to a local school to help them lay a new running track down for their Daily Mile.

Kate played the game in Salisbury with her husband and daughter Gracie by walking between Beat Boxes until they realised that they’d score more points by cycling. She said: “Before this, if my husband suggested a bike ride, I would groan and make excuses.” Spending time as a family was a real benefit of Beat the Street and Gracie grew more confident on her bike.

She added: “My husband and I went out for laps of the estate on the bikes together; it has been great for my knee and I’ve lost over a stone.”

Joe Bailey, Healthy and Active Lifestyles Officer at East Northamptonshire Council, said: “Beat the Street East Northants helped us to understand people’s motivations for being more active to help us shape and design our services locally to try to engage with people in a similar way. It has also created an interest in our service and allowed us to form better relationships with our schools, clubs, community groups and residents.”

Darren Farish, Blaby Sport and Physical Activity Team Leader at Blaby District Council, said: “Beat the Street engaged 11.5% of our residents which we as a local authority could never dream of such engagement in such a short period of time. Easy to work with, flexible to local needs and innovative, I would give my all to get them back in and deliver the programme again.”

Dr William Bird MBE, the creator of Beat the Street and the founder of Intelligent Health, its parent company said: “We’re delighted with these findings that show that little changes can make people get more active. The game is a cost-effective way of encouraging people to work with other members of their community to play the game and to make small changes to daily behaviour.”

Sport England’s CEO Tim Hollingsworth, commented: “It’s great to see that 71% of inactive adults who played Beat the Street have been helped to get active long-term by playing the game.

“When we invested £3,32 million of National Lottery money into Beat the Street in 2018 our aim was to bring the game to another 59 communities focussing particularly on those with higher levels of deprivation. Our research shows that someone on a low income is twice as likely to be inactive as someone on a higher income. That’s not right, and it’s why we’re working to bring more free, fun, and accessible activities to the communities who need it most.

“The findings from the programme evaluation are really encouraging and show that participants are likely to continue doing regular activity even once the game has ended.”

For more information, or to request an interview with Dr William Bird, please contact margaret.mcdonnell@intelligenthealth.co.uk or 07930 274667.

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