FROM Paris to Istanbul, North East health workers are walking their way to fitness.
More than 120 members of staff at the North East Strategic Health Authority are clocking up the miles in the grand pedometer challenge, competing in teams to complete virtual routes.
Staff have been issued with pedometers and can now be found walking around the grounds of the Newburn Business Park headquarters on lunchtimes and after work.
The challenge is part of the North East Strategic Health Authority’s Workforce Workfit scheme, which was launched last year to help businesses create opportunities for staff to engage in physical activity through work.
The programme was devised to create a lasting legacy leading up to and beyond London 2012.
The first pedometer challenge, which saw workers covering 874 virtual miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats, was won by the Finance Footsies team, who covered an average of 170 miles a week.
The latest challenge follows a more exotic route from Paris to Istanbul, along the route of the Orient Express, with teams currently on the leg from Sofia to Thessalonika.
The canteen staff, who are also participating in the challenge, are putting on themed meals as the walkers pass through each virtual country and individual mileage leaders and team leaders have flags around their work stations showing they are the front runners.
Reports and comparison charts are issued weekly so that staff can view their progress compared with other teams and individuals.
Sean Haran, a leading member of the front-running Carry on Catering team, said: “It’s been really helpful to be able to see in black and white just how much exercise I am doing and build from there.
“Doing exercise as a group activity is more fun and more motivating than trying to do things on your own.”
The project recently achieved the coveted Inspire Mark from LOCOG, the organising committee of the Olympic Games, which gives the official Olympic stamp of approval.
Elaine Wilson, the NHS North East Olympic ambassador, said: “The Pedometer Challenge works on a number of levels.
“Walking is easy for anyone to do anywhere and being in a team, together with the element of competition, are all things that motivate people.
“Also being able to see feedback on your progress at regular intervals spurs people on to do better.”
Fergus Neilson, early interventions programme manager at Public Health North East, said: “Not being active enough affects our health in many more serious ways than most people expect.
“There is strong evidence of links to heart disease, obesity and some cancers.
“More than 140 members of staff have worn a pedometer every day for more than two months.
“It has been great to hear the chat and get the feedback as they become more aware of how inactive most of us are in our daily lives. Also, how, by adjusting the way we live and work a bit, we can become more active.”