Beat the Street and Sport England partnership sees success as over 61,000 people in the South West are helped to get active

A new national programme that aims to encourage over 655,000 adults and children across England to become active has been hailed early success with substantial changes in behaviour in Swindon, Torbay, Weymouth & Portland and Poole, the first communities that have participated. In just six weeks the communities have travelled 500,000 miles between them.

Beat the Street is a physical activity initiative that tackles inactivity through a six-week game that encourages people to get outside and get active in their local area. Players, who are often children and families, tap the boxes using special cards that use the technology found in high street reward cards to gain points for their schools or community groups — with leading scorers winning prizes. During and after the game, players are signposted to sport and activity providers in the local area such as a free orienteering opportunity in Swindon that allowed players to score game points during a fun treasure hunt.

In October, Sport England invested £3.23 million National Lottery funding to double the reach of Beat the Street and expand the initiative to another 59 towns. The first four towns to launch the game have shown positive results, especially in the target market of women and those from deprived communities — who are less likely to be active according to Sport England research. Participants reported the game brought their community together and allowed families to bond (case study quotes below).

  • One in four people in England are inactive i.e. they do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week.
  • And only 17.5% of children and young people are active, meeting the current Chief Medical Officer guidelines of taking part in sport and physical activity for at least 60 minutes every day.

The first wave of programmes in Swindon, Torbay, Weymouth & Portland and Poole & Purbeck saw more than 61,000 adults and children play the games in 301 teams, travelling 500,000 miles between them.

Headline Findings:

  1. Tacking inactivity: 56% of adult participants who were inactive when they registered to take part before the four games, were lifted into regular activity following the game period.

  2. Behaviour change was strongest in adults in the most deprived area: In Torbay, for adults living in the top 40% of multiple deprivation, 75% of participants who were inactive when they registered were lifted into regular activity following the game period.

  3. Addressing the Gender Gap: 69% of registered adults were female.

  4. Long-term health condition: 13% of registered players had a long-term condition with 4% a disability.

  5. Getting children active: Across the four towns, 64% of primary school pupils played the game.

Andrea Clayton, a mum-of-four, found family time to play Beat the Street in Swindon: “We’ve loved Beat the Street and getting out on our bikes. My Dad died in June, and he was a member of a cycling club in Kent as a young man, so the Beat the Street experience was also very cathartic. It would have pleased him greatly to see his daughter and granddaughters enjoying our bike rides. Thank you for encouraging not just fitness but family bonding time…[I]t’s a great experience, chatting to other people along the route, enjoying quality time together and getting exercise into the bargain.”

Lynn Calloway in Weymouth explained the benefits went beyond exercise; “The most important message is that it has made people feel part of a community again. As we finished at 7pm the group that were walking and cycling near Sainsbury’s stopped and congratulated each other. Some spoke about the sense of community on the estates that they live on that wasn’t there before. People chatting to the children and them as they were on their way to Beat Boxes. It didn’t matter what team you were on everyone was cheering and supporting each other as we came to the end of the event. My highlight has to be the more mature gent that broke out into a jog to tap the last beat box at 7pm I’m hoping he made it. I take my hat off to you!”

Fiona Dickens, Swindon Borough Council Public Health Programme Manager, said: “Beat the Street has had a fantastic effect on families here in Swindon, we heard lots of stories of how parents are children were spending more time together, exploring new areas in the town and, most importantly, getting active. Not only did 15% of the town play, but the post-game results have shown that Beat the Street has had a positive impact on families’ physical activity levels.”

Sport England’s Director for Tackling Inactivity, Mike Diaper, commented: “The results from Swindon, Torbay, Weymouth and Poole/Purbeck are really encouraging and demonstrate Beat the Street’s ability to deliver at scale. That’s why Sport England is partnering with Intelligent Health and investing £3.32 million of National Lottery funding to roll the game out in 59 places. The four communities which have played the game so far have seen first-hand the power of sport and physical activity. Getting active is great for your physical health, but it also brings communities together, helps families bond, and gets people outside — which great for mental wellbeing. I am delighted that even more towns and cities will get to play Beat the Street soon.“

Dr William Bird, MBE, creator of Beat the Street said: ‘I’d like to say thank you to the local partners and residents who helped transform their areas into a vision of the future where people are in control of their health and can see how small changes deliver big impact. People have connected, played together and had fun where they live. We are delighted with the results and the thousands of messages from residents telling us how they have got active with their families and friends. It’s great to see the movement begin!”

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