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Walking beats pills in the battle against depression: Pearson people are proof


One of the first longitudinal studies of health and wellbeing, a 10,000 step challenge over 75 days, has now been released. Participants formed teams and logged their daily steps and other exercises to analyse the long term benefits. We at Pearson joined with Stepathlon and academics from Flinders and Victoria Universities, to analyse the long term benefits of the 75 day walking challenge, the Stepathalon, that most of our people in Australia and many around the world participated in over two years.


The report, soon to be released by education company Pearson, Stepathlon and academics from Flinders and Victoria Universities, is one of the first longitudinal studies of the health and wellbeing impacts of a 10,000 step challenge, where participants form teams and log their daily steps or other exercise over 75 days.

Pearson Australia is one of three companies in the nation to have run the program two years in a row, and saw an 18 per cent reduction in depression averaged from 2016 and 2017 results. This is compared to a seven per cent decrease in depression achieved by taking antidepressants, other studies show.

Pearson Asia Pacific Managing Director, David Barnett said among many other positive indicators, the steep drop in depression, anxiety and stress were the most encouraging.

“Just around the office I noticed people taking calls while walking, meeting up to go for a stroll at lunch, or hearing about people walking, running and cycling to and from work.

“While the teamwork piece is important, it’s the health benefits that drew us to the program. The Stepathlon Challenge is part of our broader wellness program that aims to prevent, treat and sustain good mental health in our people.”

Other key findings* include:

  • 27 per cent decrease in anxiety
  • 13 per cent decrease in stress
  • 9 per cent increase in wellbeing

The daily walking step average per participant was 11,815 steps per day, about 7.6 km - well beyond the average step count of an office worker at 3,500 steps a day.

Mr Barnett said: “We are pleasantly surprised with these results, which position us among organisations with a good, healthy culture, where people feel valued and respected.

“This is the only program that we could find that reaches all our people all over the country, our region and our global colleagues, suits people of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels and is not focused on competition, despite many of our better natures, but on habit forming. We’re definitely doing it again this year and recommend it to others.”

*Results reached near statistical significance. Results were assessed using the short form Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS1) and the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS).”

Read the white paper here: Measuring changes in depression, anxiety, stress & wellbeing in a 75-day workplace activity challenge


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