Creating environments that encourage active lifestyles

In a nutshell

Simplistically, we develop programmes and interventions that help to create behaviour change. We’re primarily concerned with health, as this covers such a broad range of issues, e.g. mental health, wellbeing and even safety.

We work with large businesses, SMEs, as well as the public sector (e.g. local and central government and related agencies) as they are necessarily concerned with whole communities and populations. Similarly, our aim is to tackle wider social issues at a community level, rather than selecting small groups of people to focus on.

Not education, education, education

We believe that there are many facets to changing behaviour, and providing education to individuals and communities does play a part. But if you look at the major historical shifts in society, in the UK at least, education was not the catalyst for identifiable change.

Look at smoking, for example. We have known for decades that smoking is harmful and we gradually removed advertising, printed millions of leaflets, saw thousands of adverts telling us how bad it was and even added ‘smoking kills’ and other messages to the very packaging that surrounds the product. The result? Very minimal, if any, shifts in behaviour.

What happened next? We banned smoking in public places (i.e. the environment) and a noticeable decrease in smoking was the result.It didn’t end smoking but it has reduced the number of opportunities to do it.

So…

The environment is at the core of what we do. It is the environment that we believe can affect significant changes to our behaviour, particularly in health.

Prompting change

We know that education does not generally lead to instant change or different decision-making.

However, if we use prompts in the environment we can change behaviour at the point of the decision being made. For example, if you drive on a motorway and come across roadworks, you might be required to change lanes or drive more slowly.

The problem is that maintenance organisations don’t have any time to tell you why you need to change your behaviour as you will be driving fairly fast. So they need to use prompts to ensure that you make the right decision quickly – an arrow, a new speed limit sign or a range of other symbols.

Houston… we have a problem

Forget obesity – physical inactivity is one of the major issues in our society today. Obesity is just one manifestation of a lack of physical activity. We know that inactivity levels and related health issues are rising every year, but yet we now know much more about food, activity and why being healthy is important. Sound familiar?

Luckily, there are a vast range of clubs and organisations helping people to get involved in sport and activity and we whole-heartedly support that.

But there is another problem – not everyone is ready to join a club or go to the gym.

The science bit

In the 1980s, research alerted us to the fact that behaviour change does not happen to all of us in the same way through their widely used ‘Transtheoretical Model of Behaviour Change’. In fact, our ability to change all depends on our readiness. The model has many facets but it is widely known for its stages of change. In relation to a health behaviour, such as reducing inactivity, you could be in pre-contemplation (i.e. you do not accept there is an issue), or contemplation (thinking about how you might change), as well as a range of other states.

The trouble is most public sector campaigns target those who are already preparing to be more physically active. What about those who still have the blinkers on…who have not really accepted that a problem might exist? Or those who accept that they need to change, but are still struggling to consider how to alter their current levels of activity?

*Transtheoretical therapy: Toward a more integrative model of change. Prochaska, James O.; DiClemente, Carlo C.
Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, Vol 19(3), 1982, 276-288.

One area that CP Active are working on is environmental nudge ‘prompts’ to give individuals a gentle push towards integrating activity into their lives.

In turn, this will give them the confidence to consider different forms of physical activity and, crucially, to identify themselves as an ‘active’ person.

So how can we help you?

  • You might work for local government and be concerned with improving the health and activity levels of your local community.
  • Or you might be an employer or owner of a building or public space and want to improve the health and wellbeing of your employees or users of that space.
  • Or you might be a town planner or developer and want to know how to make a new space or building you are creating provide the best opportunities for users of that space or building to be more active as they move around.
  • Or you might just want to know how you can provide an opportunity for people in your local community to be more active as part of their daily lives.

We can help

We’re not just focused on physical activity. We believe we can create environments that help tackle other social issues, such as smoking cessation, isolation of the elderly and road safety.