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Beat the Street project to expand across England following £3.3m cash injection

A community initiative which seeks to turn towns and cities into "giant playgrounds" for children – in order to get them physically active – is set to expand across England.

The Beat the Street project has received £3.3m worth of Lottery funding, which will see a further 59 'games' being rolled out across South West England and the East Midlands.

Already active in 72 towns and cities across the UK and Europe, the programme was set up by Intelligent Health.

The game sees individuals, or teams – often schools and families – use a card to tap into ‘Beat Boxes’ located on lampposts all across town.

When users tap into a new location they score points for the distance they have walked, cycled or scooted to get there – with a central website keeping a running total and allowing people to play in teams, competing against others in the same town.

The game lasts for two months in any location, with cards available from libraries, hospitals, supermarkets and leisure centres.

A card must then be registered on each town’s own Beat the Street website, where maps of Beat Box locations can also be found, before a player can head out and get tapping.

Prizes are on offer for the best performing groups in specific categories and Dr William Bird, the brains behind Beat the Street, believes his game helps get a whole town active.

“Walking isn’t just a physical activity, it’s a social interaction where people can connect with the outdoors and rediscover their roots,” he said.

“As doctors our role is based on reaction, we recommend activity and prescribe medicine, but Beat the Street focuses on preventing illnesses in the first place.

“Moving upstream from the NHS, we are changing behaviours in whole towns and whole cities. It’s amazing to see people taking ownership and mass participation with some schemes having more than 40,000 people playing in just a week or two.”

More than 850,000 people have taken part in the game in the last five years, with findings showing that participants increased their weekly walking by 180 minutes a week and their overall levels of physical activity by 335 minutes per week in the six months after playing the game.

The £3.3m funding is expected to support more than 655,000 people to get active.

“By getting people outside, socialising, and exploring their local area, Beat the Street makes being active fun no matter how fit you are,” said Sport England's executive director for children, young people and tackling inactivity, Mike Diaper.

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A community initiative which seeks to turn towns and cities into "giant playgrounds" for children – in order to get them physically active – is set to expand across England.
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