I think we’d all agree that getting and staying reasonably fit is a good idea, but putting it into practice is easier said than done when work, family and other commitments get in the way. Well last year I took part in something which has helped change my view on staying healthy.
My name is Brian Anderson. I work for the MOD Guard Service (MGS) and I’m based in Coulport in Scotland. In 2016 I was part of a team of seven who took part in something called ‘The Global Challenge’ competition. It’s designed to improve fitness, reduce stress and promote healthy living. It’s a team event, done over a hundred days, but it’s also something that you can fit around your normal working week. While lots of fitness programmes involve complicated exercises, equipment or weird diets, this is based on something most of us do every day – walking. You just do more of it.
Best Foot Forward
Most people with office based jobs apparently take less than 3,000 steps per day. As part of the Global Challenge each team member has to do at least 10,000 steps per day. That sounds like a big increase, but it’s not as hard as it sounds, and that extra activity is what makes the difference. In simple terms it’s about improving your cardiovascular health, and it’s amazing how much more energy and stamina you develop, not to mention flexibility.
We all take fitness and wellbeing for granted, but as we get older they have to be worked at. This is especially important when so many people have fairly sedentary lives. It is all too easy to drive everywhere or to spend much of our lives at work or at home just sitting down.
All Around Health
Besides the minimum of 10,000 steps per day, Global Challenge also takes into account things like the food we eat, and the amount and quality of the sleep we get. If there’s one thing that taking part in this competition has taught me, it’s that these three things all inter-connect and make a big difference to what you might call our ‘well-being’.
I’ve just celebrated my 54th birthday and anyone in their fifties knows this is a time of re-evaluation, especially in terms of health and fitness. I’ve always been reasonably active and enjoy cycling including a mammoth bike trip between all the capital cities of the UK.
I was also conscious that many of my family have suffered with various heart related problems, so I was especially keen to do something about my fitness. So, taking part in the Global Challenge was a ‘no-brainer’ because basically it just involves walking.
How the Global Challenge Works
Although the 10,000 step minimum is at the centre of the programme, swimming and cycling can be converted into steps. Everything is recorded using a fitness monitor, the sort that you can wear on your wrist, and then uploaded to the event’s website. Doing anything in isolation is more difficult that working together, so the team aspect of ‘Global Challenge’ is really important. In a practical sense it’s just better in terms of setting and achieving goals, giving and receiving encouragement, or just to have someone to chat with about shared experiences.
Global Challenge is run by Virgin Active, but you don’t have to be one of their members to take part. Last year MGS entered 11 teams and I think the Ministry of Defence entered about 90 teams in total. Worldwide over 50,000 teams and about half a million people took part.
Our team in 2016 included John Murray (team captain) who has been an MGS Guard for 24 years. He used to take his dogs for extra-long walks to boost his step count. Then there was Jim Donnelly who was keen on walking the River Leven towpath, Jim Reynolds who’s been a guard for twenty plus years and former soldier Billy Kozar. The younger members of the team included: Fraser Heys, Murdo Jardine and James MacDonald. When Murdo had an injury it was James who took his place.
Given the number of teams that took part I’m really proud that not only was ours the top MOD team but that we came 286th out of the 50,000 teams that entered worldwide. I understand a new 100 day Global Challenge started at the end of May and that the next is due to start on September 6th. I’d like to wish all the MGS and MOD teams the best of luck. I’m sure they will find, as I did, that just a small amount of extra regular exercise really does make a difference.