Successful Lunar Challenge had positive effects on wellbeing

Nearly 100 colleges took part in AoC Sport’s Lunar Challenge last month, making it one of the most popular and engaged virtual challenges run so far 

The initial target was to virtually travel to the moon and collectively reach 238,855 miles by running, walking, or cycling in a seven-week period until the end of February. However, the take up by staff and students was so successful that the target was hit within four weeks and the challenge was extended to get back to Earth.  

In total 98 colleges participated, including Natspec Colleges, with some taking part in an AoC Sport initiative for the first time.  

The final distance reached was 463,318 miles, with SGS College contributing a massive 84,987 miles to comprehensively come top of thenational leaderboardCongratulations to all the staff and students on reaching such a huge total.  

The rest of the top five were Peter Symonds College (19,845), Hartpury College (16,140), Bridgwater & Taunton College (14,320) and Hull College (12,290).  

The winner of the prize draw for all colleges who completed more than 300 activities was New College Stamford, who did 2,575 cycles, walks, and runs over the seven weeks.  

Alex Gaiger, Head of Faculty – Sport and Enrichment at SGS College said it was always their goal to win the challenge. 

“As a college we are proud to be top of the tree, this was our target after missing out on the Around the World Challenge in November and December.  

We set a clear objective of 8,000 miles a week. We advertised the challenge to learners on their SGSPlus+ Teams site whilst also encouraging staff to join in the weekly college memo. As a result, we exceeded expectations and averaged 13,000 miles a week.”  

He also said the learners really enjoyed the challenge, adding: Students said it was great to receive kudos from staff and peers, which had a positive impact on their motivation levels.” 

The emphasis of the challenge was to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff and students during the lockdown, such as completing weekly spot challenges linked to the 5 Ways to Wellbeing.  

Staff and students have been resoundingly positive about the challenge and the benefits to their mental health 

Ben Lyons, a student at Xaverian College won two of the spot challenges, and said the challenge helped him stay focused and physically and mentally fit during the lockdown.  

“The Lunar Challenge made me return to tying up the laces and going for a run. This helped me clear my head and produce a personal best 5k time of 18 minutes and 36 seconds. Hopefully, there will be many more challenges to come and enjoy.”  

Liz Calver, Head of Curriculum – Sport and Public Services at North Hertfordshire College, said: 

“The Lunar Challenge has been a brilliant way to promote the benefits of physical activity to staff and students this lockdown. For me, the highlight has been seeing how effectively the challenge has encouraged a social element to exercise again. Kudos, conversations, and positive messages have been flying around our Strava running and cycling clubs with staff and students benefitting from the peer support to get out and get active. It’s been really lovely to see!” 

At the height of the challenge, more than 3,000 people were taking part doing an average of six miles per activity every week. 

Michael Gardiner, Sport Development Officer Inactivity at Tyne Coast College said the challenge helped the college Strava group grow from eight members to 80 

“It has created a motivating social space for our staff and students to compete against each other, other colleges and set themselves targets. As a sport development team, we have tried lots of different ideas to engage our learners in health and wellbeing and the Lunar Challenge has certainly been the most successful thing we have been a part of during this third lockdown. We now hope to integrate our active travel plans more using Strava and engage students in new and interactive ways. 

Abbie Barnwell, a Level 3 Sport and Exercise Science student at North Hertfordshire College, said:  

“I loved taking part in the Lunar Challenge. It has had a really positive impact on me as I have shown progression with my running. It has also helped me with my mental health as it has given me reasons to get outside and clear my head.”  

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