An initiative in South Lanarkshire has been encouraging thousands of residents to get outside, get active and connect with their local community.
Beat the Street is a fun and engaging concept that has been embraced in South Lanarkshire with almost 18,000 people covering more than 200,000 miles in activity.
Building active communities
Beat the Street is a community-wide programme created and delivered by Intelligent Health that encourages people to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives.
The programme turns towns into interactive games where participants earn points as they walk, cycle and run. Participants hover a contactless fob or card against one of the ‘Beat Box’ sensors placed on lampposts across the town, scoring points for the distance they have covered.
The programme has been played in eight local authorities since 2015 with 123,593 people participating so far.
It’s free for participants and encourages people of all ages and abilities to get involved and see how far they can actively travel to win prizes for their community or school. The further people travel, the more points they score.
Working with schools, local authorities, pharmacies, health centres and community organisations, the game unites the whole community with leaderboards and incentives to keep the programme fun and engaging.
Val Caldwell, programme manager in Scotland for Intelligent Health, said: “The idea of the game is to encourage people to travel more actively across their local town whilst leaving the car behind and then continue these healthy new lifestyle habits beyond the end of the game.
“The game means different things to different people, giving it a real connection to the whole community. This could be families who are more connected than ever before, helping people struggling with their weight or mental health, or getting those suffering from isolation out and enjoying their local community.
"As well as increasing levels of physical activity, we work closely with stakeholders to ensure that the game helps them reach wider social outcomes such as easing congestion or improving air quality.”
Success in East Kilbride
Beat the Street has been incredibly popular in South Lanarkshire, with previous successes coming in Rutherglen and Lanark before the programme was launched in East Kilbride in February 2020. In East Kilbride, 17% of the local population took part covering almost 125,000 miles in less than six weeks.
The programme in South Lanarkshire is delivered by Intelligent Health on behalf of South Lanarkshire Council’s Environmental Services, with funding support from Paths for All’s Smarter Choices, Smarter Places fund.
It has contributed to increasing the number of children meeting activity levels by 15% and adults by 28%, with players reporting an improvement in fitness, mental health and social cohesion.
Michelle Carmichael, Active Schools coordinator in East Kilbride, said: “Beat the Street was an excellent way to get the whole community moving! In East Kilbride, we had primary and secondary schools taking part and the sense of fun and competition was really motivational.
"It was a great way to explore green spaces and get children and young people walking, cycling and jogging.”
One of the participants in East Kilbride said: “You see lots of families out and about playing the game, but the other thing is the number of things that you notice in and around your own area that you might not have seen before."
Expanding the programme
Through its success in East Kilbride, as well as in Rutherglen and Lanark, the initiative will start in Hamilton and Blantyre in March, motivating more people in South Lanarkshire to get active.
Megan Glancy, former member of the sportscotland Young People’s Sport Panel, has been recruited as Beat the Street engagement coordinator for Hamilton and Blantyre.
Megan said: “We’re excited to be launching the Beat the Street programme in Hamilton and Blantyre and working with the whole community – schools, workplaces, community groups and sports clubs – to encourage as many people as possible to get involved.
"We know that walking is a great way for people to get active and get to know their local area, and the Beat the Street programme is an easy way to combine both.”
The game has been amended to be compatible with Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic restrictions with extra signage, Beat Box sanitation, pavement markings and regular messaging ensuring safe play. New cards and more sensitive Beat Boxes will also be installed that respond without the need for touch.