GAA members walk six million kms for Irish Life Steps Challenge
Professor Niall Moyna has heralded the personal and public health impact of the regular exercise and health score improvements experienced by the participants in the recently concluded GAA Healthy Club / MyLife by Irish Life Steps Challenge.
Between January 13th and March 3rd, 28,000 GAA members walked a combined total of 6 million kms as part of the ‘Every Step Counts’ challenge hosted on Irish Life’s MyLife App. To put that into perspective, it is the equivalent of walking the circumference of the earth 15 times; a combined step count of 7.5 billion. The aim of the challenge was to offer GAA members a fun incentive to stay active within their 5km radius. On average, each participant walked just over 200km.
Prof. Moyna, BA, MSc, PhD, FACSM, FFPHMI, Full Professor: Clinical Exercise Physiology, School of Health and Human Performance, Faculty of Science and Health, Dublin City University, who is also well known for his GAA credentials, said:
“It is very gratifying to see that the participants in this MyLife by Irish Life Healthy Club Steps Challenge walked an average of 268,000 steps and had an 11-point increase in their health score in the only, eight weeks. The public health implications of these results cannot be underestimated and demonstrate the value of promoting walking across the lifespan.”
The challenge helped fill some of the void created by the absence of any on-field GAA activity and the forced cancellation of the popular annual Ireland Lights Up walking initiative, normally delivered in conjunction with RTE’s Operation Transformation during January and February.
The 28,000 participants represented over 700 GAA clubs across the 32 counties. It was the second such steps challenge delivered during the pandemic through the GAA’s award winning Healthy Club Project. The Healthy Club Project is delivered in partnership with Irish Life, Healthy Ireland, the HSE, and National Office for Suicide Prevention. The first challenge in June 2020 attracted 12,000 participants from over 400 clubs, with the MyLife App once again tracking all 2.2 billion steps taken.
“The amount of physical activity required to produce substantial health benefits is quite small. Walking is a highly accessible activity. It requires no special skills or facilities, can be easily accommodated into an existing lifestyle, can be undertaken at almost any age with little risk of injury and has been shown to positively impact on physical, psychological and cognitive function. Indeed, there isn't a single organ in the body that is not positively affected by a brief walk,” Prof. Moyna added.
A club target of 4,000km was set for the ‘Every Step Counts’ challenge – the equivalent of a circuit of the coast of Ireland. All clubs that achieved this goal were entered into randomised draws in their province for gear vouchers worth €2,500, €1,500, and €1,000, generously provided by Irish Life as part of their on-going CSR partnership of the Healthy Club Project (see editors notes for full list of prize winners). An additional €23,000 worth of gear vouchers were set aside for specific achievements within participating clubs, with the winners to be announced next week.
While the winning clubs welcomed the prize monies during this challenging financial period for all sports clubs, the benefits of the challenge far exceeded the financial rewards.
Ciara Lalor, PRO with the St. Colmcille’s Healthy Club in Meath, explains: “Seeing the engagement that we have had from members and the community and giving something back to our members at this time when there is very little else going on, you take great pride in been able to do it. We take great pride in keeping people active, keeping people engaged and keeping people having a bit of fun and giving them a reason to get out and a reason to walk.”
Ciara also noted the benefits of a bit of inter-club rivalry during a time when Gaelic Games have been forced to stop as leader boards on the MyLife App allowed clubs to see their standing within their own county, province, and nationally. St. Colmcille’s topped the Leinster leader-board for total distance covered, just ahead of Clontarf in Dublin.
“We (were) having great craic with them on social media chasing each other. They have done super work in their community as well. I saw a fundraiser they did in aid of the Irish Cancer Society and Pieta House encouraging all their members to do something active. They have been a great kind of adversary in the nicest possible way for us throughout this.”
GAA President Larry McCarthy said: “The steps challenge provided our clubs with a meaningful and safe way to express their community identity while keeping people connected during this difficult period of lockdown. As the incredible figures demonstrate, it also helped motivate thousands of participants to achieve their recommended weekly physical activity levels within their 5km limit. I’d like to thank Irish Life for their continued, innovative, support of the GAA Healthy Club Project and look forward to more clubs getting involved in this great project in the future.”
Head of Wellness, Irish Life Stacey Machesney said: “Health & Wellbeing continues to become increasingly important with immediate and long terms health benefits directly linked to physical health and exercise. From our own research carried out we know approximately 90% of us are looking to improve our health with lack of motivation being the biggest challenge to achieving this. The insights coming from MyLife are showing us, the more opportunities we get to exercise in a social and connected way, the greater success we have in staying motivated to be physically active”.
The GAA Healthy Club Project currently engages 300 clubs and will open expressions of interest for to new entrant clubs in November 2021. For more details go to: www.gaa.ie/community.
Winners of random provincial draw amongst all clubs that reached 4,000km target.
€2,500 O'Neill's gear voucher - Gael Colmcille CLG, Meath
€1,500 O'Neill's gear voucher - Johnstownbridge GAA, Kildare
€1,000 O'Neill's gear voucher - St. Michael's GAA, Meath
€2,500 O'Neill's gear voucher - Owenmore Gaels, Sligo
€1,500 O'Neill's gear voucher - Allen Gaels, Leitrim
€1,000 O'Neill's gear voucher - Ballinaglera GAA, Leitrim
€2,500 O'Neill's gear voucher - Beale GAA, Kerry
€1,500 O'Neill's gear voucher - Ballybacon-Grange Hurling & Camogie Club, Tipperary
€1,000 O'Neill's gear voucher - Emly GAA, Tipperary
€2,500 O’Neill’s gear voucher - Loughgiel Shamrocks GAC, Antrim
€1,500 O’Neill’s gear voucher - Lavey GAA, Derry
€1,000 O’Neill’s gear voucher - Derrynoose GAA, Armagh