A WORLDWIDE drive to encourage people to commit to a prescription for better physical and mental health is being launched this Spring.
The 5X50 Challenge, which is a Scottish charity, is kicking off its 50 Days To Fit campaign, which aims to get people of all ages in as many countries as possible to pledge themselves to 30 minutes of exercise every day for 50 consecutive days.
The 5×50 Challenge not only endeavours to change exercise habits for a lifetime but it has also set a target of raising £500,000 for charity.
This is the third year that the Challenge has set out to attract the attention of people – from school pupils to workers, to stay-at-home mums and dads– to sign up and enjoy the lasting legacy of a commitment to improving fitness and well-being.
This year’s 50 Days To Fit starts on Sunday March 30 and runs until May 18.
Also, the 5×50 Challenge has been awarded Commonwealth Games Legacy status in recognition of its positive impact on the health, happiness and well-being of the people of Scotland and in recognition of its efforts in tackling the perception of the country as a nation of obesity and low-fitness.
The Challenge is already backed by the chief medical officers for Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales and has the support of organisations and famous names who are committed to healthier lifestyles for everyone.
They include former 10,000-metre world champion and Olympic athlete, Liz McColgan, renowned athlete and doctor, Andrew Murray, Scottish Minister for Sport and the Commonwealth Games, Shona Robison, and TV presenter, Jenni Falconer.
For individuals, regular physical activity helps to prevent and manage more than 20 chronic illnesses, including heart disease, obesity, strokes and mental health conditions. For companies, inactivity among employees can lead to an increase in costs in terms of sickness absence and inefficiency.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, who is a supporter, says: “I believe that if physical activity was a drug it would be classed as a wonder drug, which is why I would encourage everyone to get up and be active. The work that 5X50 do is extremely important and I am proud to say I support them.
“Being active and doing the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week for adults is not just good for your physical health but also your mental health.
5×50 started out in 2012 as a challenge to people from all walks of life to get fitter and healthier, physically and mentally, by taking part in a 5 kilometre run, jog or walk every day for 50 consecutive days, hence the name.
Since then, it has developed and broadened its appeal, and now 5×50 participants can sign up by committing themselves to 30 minutes of exercise every day for 50 days, which means those involved in a host of other activities (such as swimmers, canoeists and climbers) can take part.
Even if participants wish to brave bitter cold and take up ice swimming – as one primary school teacher in Moscow did – they can.
For most people, the easiest and most acceptable forms of physical activity are those incorporated into everyday life. Walking and cycling are perhaps the most obvious.
Research demonstrates that habits are formed after 21 days, so with the challenge running over 50 days, this will make it much easier for participants to continue beyond the end of the challenge into a new way of life.
Since 2012, more than 9,000 people from 43 countries have participated in three annual challenges and have raised more than £160,000 for a plethora of good causes.
One notable beneficiary is Sport Relief, which gives shelter to young people living on the streets and protection to those living with domestic abuse.
Across the world, money helps children into education and provides communities with fresh water and life-saving vaccines.
The health benefits of being active have been known since the 1950s, when a study compared bus drivers with more physically active bus conductors and office-based telephonists with postmen and demonstrated lower rates of heart disease and smaller uniform sizes in the more active occupations.
The 1950s is where it started, and the 5×50 charity challenge is how we hope to continue changing the results of inactivity.
Those who have benefitted include:
• Eleven year-old Ross De’Thick, of Elgin, Moray, who, from birth, suffered from various allergies, eczema and asthma and was prone to constant stomach cramps and aching bones. He could not cycle a bike up until the 5×50 challenge last year
• Sarah Mather, of Edinburgh, who credits the 2013 challenge with changing her life. Facing redundancy and more than five stones overweight, she is now a svelte size 14 and has forged a new career as a personal trainer and life coach.
5X50 co-founder, Raymond Wallace, says: “The Challenge started off as a personal challenge in 2012 – but the impact the challenge has had in such a short period is amazing.
“We love the feedback we receive about the changes it has made to so many lives. Although this will be our third Challenge, we fully believe we are just at the start of our journey and can see 5×50 continuing to grow globally and become the success it deserves to be.”
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