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Mobile phones make the Olympic Legacy a walk in the park

Mobile phones make the Olympic Legacy a walk in the park

Our behaviour change experts at BetterPoints will use new smartphone technology to motivate more people to use Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP) in East London.

The park’s neighbouring boroughs have among the highest rates of obesity in England, despite the legacy dream of the 2012 Olympic Games including London becoming ‘the most physically active city in the world’.

Recent reports shows that ‘some moderate to vigorous physical activity is substantially better than none’. But we all know how easy it can be to lapse without a little external encouragement.

BetterPoints is providing that encouragement in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park by awarding points to local people that walk, run or cycle in the park. Those points can be exchanged for high street vouchers or donated to charity.

When we did similar work for Birmingham’s Active Parks programme, 80% of the research group went from inactive to active (as defined by Sport England) within four months.

Over two years, participants made 12,000 park visits, burned 35 million calories and travelled 1.6 million miles. 47% of them were from highly deprived groups (measured by cross-referencing postcode data with Indices of Multiple Deprivation), 50% said their overall health improved and 66% said BetterPoints made them more active.

BetterPoints’ work at QEOP is part of Future Cities Catapult’s Capstone funding programme. We are one of four UK SMEs that won £10,000 to develop and test innovative technologies within the bounds of the Olympic Park in East London.

‘The health system is struggling,’ says BetterPoints CEO, Dan Gipple. ‘Much of this struggle could be alleviated if people just adapted their behaviour a little for the better: a little more walking and exercise; a little less alcohol; a little more healthy eating.

‘This would make a big difference. Obesity alone costs the NHS more than £6billion a year and the wider economy a staggering £27billion and contributes to myriad other health problems such as heart disease, cancer, asthma and depression.

‘Incentives are important for helping people live more healthily but they must be gauged carefully, and they’re only part of the picture. Therefore, the Capstone Project in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a fantastic opportunity to test what works and develop systems that make the best possible contribution to effective and efficient public health.’

Image: Olympic Park, London, United Kingdom by Alvin Leong. Licence: CC-BY-2.0.