Want to get fit? Then kick-start that journey by moving to Cape Town. This year, once again, the Mother City was named South Africa’s fittest metropolis in the Discovery Vitality Healthier SA report.
Dr Craig Nossel, head of Vitality Wellness, suspects that infrastructure and the scenic beauty of Cape Town play a role in the city taking the top spot, but it is behavioral economics that helped the city clinch the top spot.
Points-based systems like Vitality get people emotionally involved with getting more points, which increases the time they spend active. Wearables also played a role. Nossel says: “Back in 2004 we had a stepmeter, when you reached 9 999 steps you had to go to a nurse who recorded it before it was sent to Vitality for points.”
Now, wearable devices connect seamlessly with smartphones, making it easy to track data of active minutes from its pool of members.
During the release of the Vitality Healthier SA report, Nossel pointed out it was no surprise that wearable technology claimed a top-three spot on the American College of Sports Medicine’s list of global fitness trends for the past three years. It has given people control over their personal health and fitness.
But that also ties in with how we engage with the world in 2018 – and that includes social media. Thanks to social media, there are many new ways to interact with people while getting active: from online fitness communities and social challenges on Facebook, to training advice from a host of self-made fitness gurus on Instagram and YouTube, social media has facilitated a whole new way to get and stay motivated.
But behavioural changes that have shifted negatively can also be tracked, which can help to provide incentives to get people back on their feet.
“The ability to shift behaviour has been nothing short of a miracle,” says Nossel.
At Discovery, just providing rewards like free smoothies and coffees to members who achieve their Vitality goals had a great influence on how people get healthier. To date, eight million coffees
and smoothies have been claimed and according to Nossel, those who opted not to claim their drinks, the money is donated to charity. So far, R7.2 million has been raised this way.
“By exercising just one-and-a-half to two hours a week, the likelihood of you dying goes down significantly,” says Nossel.
That’s why free weekly events like parkrun and MyRun have become cornerstone events. Parkruns on Saturdays have grown to include 158 locations around the country, with more than 900 000 registered runners.
A new event has been added to this list: MyRun. This Sunday run takes place at different venues around the country. With MyRun, one can choose to run or walk a 2.5km or 5km route.
If Vitality members complete a parkrun and MyRun in one weekend, they’ll earn 600 points as well as close the in the gap the fitness goal of being active enough for a week.
“There are two main behaviours causing significant illness and deaths among South Africans. One, how we drive. Two, how much we move. The statistics are staggering,” says Nossel. “More than five million deaths could be avoided each year if people moved regularly. More than 1.25 million people die in road accidents every year – that is 3 425 people a day. Added to this, between 20 and 50 million people suffer nonfatal injuries, and many become disabled. But, we can improve these statistics.
“We need to start by understanding this behaviour better and creating an environment that encourages healthier lifestyles and better driving. We aim to do that over the next 10 weeks with Vitality Open – by making Vitality Active Rewards available to all South Africans for the first time.”
Vitality’s core purpose remains to encourage people to exercise in ways that improve their health and to drive in ways that improve their safety. When users achieve their weekly goals, they qualify for a whole lot of rewards.