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New project hopes to promote the healthy option

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New project hopes to promote the healthy option

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Whilst the word addict tends to have negative connotations, due to a lack of suitable alternative I’ll call myself a fitness addict.  Stats are a fundamental part of cycling, whether it’s working out your average speed or power, or counting calories in an attempt to get as lean as possible to get up the hills.

This last point often causes a degree of consternation amongst the cycling community, as there are many different ways of gauging the number of calories burnt on a particular ride, with the various types often providing wildly divergent figures.  Of course, this confusion is not limited to cyclists, with a University of Ulster study from this autumn revealing that many people over-estimate the number of calories certain activities consume, not least of all housework.

Into this difficult environment steps a new project called StepJockey.  It’s a project, backed by the Department of Health, that aims to raise awareness of the health benefits involved in taking the stairs rather than lifts (elevators to US readers).

StepJockey’s own research suggests that climbing stairs burns more calories per minute than jogging, whilst even walking down stairs can bring surprising health benefits.  The project is currently crowdsourcing data about stairs up and down the land, with people being encouraged to add their own office to the map, together with the number of steps in the building.

Users can then print off (or order) posters to stick up near their stairwells to let users know how many calories they will burn by walking up (or down) them, along with a bit of encouragement to help them on their way.  Each poster also comes with a unique QR code that will allow smartphone users to log, track and share their efforts with friends.

According to StepJockey, the signs were developed using the principles of behavioral science, and tests proved that the nudge to take the stairs improved usage by up to 29 percent in some cases.

Taking the healthy option is always good, so any means of improving that has to be encouraged.  It would be nice I think if a gamification element were added to things, so for instance a leaderboard could be developed for each building.  This kind of feature has proved highly addictive on sites such as Strava, the cycling performance tracking website.  Overall though it’s a nice idea and one to watch.

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