2016 highlights – summer – I *did* walk 500 miles

Summer 2016
– the 1 Million Step Challenge

When I was two months in to the three-month 1 Million Step fundraising challenge that my charity, Diabetes UK, launched this summer, I blogged about my progress on the charity’s blog site and shared some tips with my fellow walkers.

I’m proud to say I did complete the challenge, though it took me an extra week or so to do it! And thanks to the generosity of my family and friends, I raised £230 – 115% of my target.

What it was like to take part

I found it interesting that, even though I had already been tracking my steps for nearly three years, and had taken part in other walking challenges in that time, something about this particular challenge really motivated me to reach the overall target of 1 million steps.It was a significant challenge, since the average UK adult is said to walk only 5,000 steps a day, and my average tended to be 7-8,000 a day.

It was a significant challenge, since the average UK adult is said to walk only 5,000 steps a day, and my average tended to be 7-8,000 a day.

Since I started step tracking in November 2013 it has motivated me to walk more than I ever did before. I find myself taking the long way around where possible, and trying to walk rather than hop on a bus or tube – to the extent that 2014 was the last year that I bought an annual season ticket and from 2015 I started walking as much as possible.

Both my Dad and his Mum had Type 2 diabetes and I know that a combination of this family history of the condition, plus our ethnicity (South Asian on that side of my family) as well as my age and gender mean that I’m at increased risk of developing the condition myself. Those are the factors I can’t change. But the factors I do have control over are my weight and waist size, so making walking part of my day seemed like a good way of reducing my risk of Type 2.

Despite all the health benefits, it can still be hard to make sure you walk 10,000 steps a day, and my average tends to be closer to 7,000. So, seeking some extra motivation, I was really happy when we at Diabetes UK launched our new 1 Million Step Challenge this summer. More cause to walk, while also fundraising for a good cause.

It takes me about 10,000 steps to cover five miles. 10,000 x 100 = 1,000,000 steps, which = five miles x 100, which = 500 miles. Hence “I will walk 500 miles” became my earworm for the summer. (Sorry for passing it on to you too.)

I had a combination of different motivations and practical steps to keep me going towards 1 million. See if any of them could work for you.

I found these practical steps helped:

  • Walk for my whole lunchbreak – and schedule these walks into my calendar so that they’re less likely to get sidelined.Combine it with reading if I’m somewhere safe to walk while reading, like a park.
  • Combine it with reading if I’m somewhere safe to walk while reading, like a park.Can also combine it with writing, if inspiration strikes – I wrote some notes for this blog post while walking in the park.
  • Can also combine it with writing, if inspiration strikes – I wrote some notes for this blog post while walking in the park.I love taking photos and Instagramming, so walking gives me more opportunities to do that.
  • I love taking photos and Instagramming, so walking gives me more opportunities to do that.I’m interested in architecture and the city I live in (London) – and there are always new places to discover.
  • I’m interested in architecture and the city I live in (London) – and there are always new places to discover.If your job permits, try having meetings while walking – a Walk-and-Talk, for those who remember The West Wing – though I must admit, I haven’t tried that one myself yet.
  • If your job permits, try having meetings while walking – a Walk-and-Talk, for those who remember The West Wing – though I must admit, I haven’t tried that one myself yet.
  • Make friends with other Fitbit/fitness tracker users – apparently on average Fitbit users walk an extra 1,000 steps a day for every Fitbit friend they have.

And I had various things to motivate me:

  • The challenge itself provided motivation – to complete a big personal goal – especially one that you have shared with lots of people.
  • Staying healthy, for me and for my family – including improving my chances of avoiding Type 2 diabetes.
  • Fundraising in memory of my Dad, for a good cause and a charity which not only employs me but has helped my family and so many others affected by all types of diabetes.
  • It’s a nice little reward when you get a 1m Step Challenge or Fitbit badge for doing a lot of steps in a day or reaching the latest equivalent distance – such as the Great Wall of China – and it helps you push on towards the next milestone.
  • And it spurs you on when you see how well other participants and Fitbit friends are doing, through the 1 Million Step Challenge website, the Fitbit app and social media.

It was so nice seeing people sharing their steps and milestones on social media. How do you motivate yourself or make walking – or any physical activity – part of your day? Please share your suggestions and experiences in the blog comments, on social media with the hashtag #1millionsteps. It would be great to hear from you.

What it was like behind the scenes

Although we don’t have a formal innovation team or group at Diabetes UK, in recent years we have tried to come up with new ways of providing support and services, and new ways of fundraising to make it possible.

Back in 2013 our then Events Fundraising Manager, Mark Fox, came up with Swim 22, a fundraising challenge where participants swim 22 miles – the equivalent to a Channel crossing – across three months in the relative comfort of their local pool.

Swim 22 has been a great success. Taking the Agile approach that I had introduced, we started with a minimum viable product in 2013 on our main website without agency involvement. Building on the success of the first year, in 2014 we worked with our agency Manifesto to build dedicated sign-up forms, a distance tracker and shareable content such as progress badges, all based on the Acquia platform.

For the 1 Million Step challenge, we were able to go from a moment of inspiration early in 2016, for an event that wasn’t even in our original plans for the year, to build and launch for 1 July. This included registration and recording functionality along with progress badges – again all through Agile, taking the decision to launch with a minimum viable product based on the Swim 22 platform and requiring very little adaptation.

It allowed us to launch another effective fundraising product, supporting our prevention and healthy lifestyle message – with minimal budget and with our comms focused online and therefore with relatively low costs. We have been able to tap into the fitness tracking trend of the past few years, provide a mass participation fundraising event with a low barrier to entry than some sporting events – requiring no specialist equipment other than a pedometer and no facilities other than a place to walk.

Despite a fairly low barrier to entry, all along I have been conscious that despite the simplicity of the concept, the step target could be offputting for people who are less able to walk, so as part of our review and plans for development, I will be advocating different levels of target reflecting different levels of ability and achievement – in the hope of starting and encouraging more people to take their first steps to positive behaviour change.

 

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Taking on the 1 Million Step Challenge to raise funds for Diabetes UK

Since the start of July this year I’ve had even more motivation to do 10,000+ steps a day and track my fitness using my Fitbit.

I’ve been taking part in Diabetes UK’s three-month fundraising event, the 1 Million Step Challenge, and there’s now a little under one month to go.

I’ve written a guest blog post for the Diabetes UK blog site – I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear from you about how you’re getting on with your fitness challenges and tracking: