Youth from Helsinki. Picture: Jussi Hellsten

Innovation challenge launched to increase the physical activity of young people

The City of Helsinki has launched the application process for an innovation challenge to promote the physical activity of young people. The challenge is aimed at companies, and it seeks innovative ways to increase the physical activity of secondary education students while also promoting their overall well-being. The application process is open until 11 February.

In accordance with its City Strategy, Helsinki wants to be a city where the residents’ conditions for leading a physically active lifestyle are improved to bring health benefits to the residents. All Helsinki residents, regardless of their age, are encouraged to engage in physical activity as much as possible.  This time, the focus of the challenge is on the physical activity of secondary education students, as out of all compulsory school age people, they lead the least physically active lifestyle.

Currently, less than one in five secondary education students in Helsinki meet the national recommendations for physical activity, i.e. at least one hour of brisk physical activity every day. According to a school health survey conducted last year, the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic are also reflected in the increased mental health issues of secondary education students, in addition to which social exclusion and depression and anxiety symptoms have increased significantly among young Helsinki residents. 

Regardless all of this, three out of four young people say they would like to be more physically active. Research has also shown that increased physical activity has a positive impact on the prevention of conditions such as musculoskeletal disorders and it also alleviates psychological symptoms, such as pressure caused by stress and schoolwork. Physical activity also has an important social dimension, which has only been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic that has limited the social interaction between young people: sports and recreational activities play a major role in maintaining young people’s interaction skills and friendships. 

Seeking solutions for emphasising the social dimension of physical activity and promoting comprehensive well-being

We are now seeking companies with products or services that respond to one or more of the following innovation challenge themes: 

  • Social interaction as a promoter of physical activity among secondary education students. How do friends and social networks contribute to engaging in physical activity and committing to it?
  • New solutions for a better match between supply and demand. Helsinki offers a wide range of sports and exercise opportunities, but how could we increase our residents’ awareness of them? 
  • Supporting comprehensive well-being. How can we promote healthy lifestyles (sleep, nutrition, physical activity) and encourage the adaptation of new healthier lifestyles through the means of welfare technology?
  • Monitoring physical activity. How could sports and exercise performance be measured and recorded so that users could be motivated and rewarded for their physical activity?

The goal of the innovation challenge is not to seek fully-fledged commercial solutions, but rather to find products that can be further developed and tested during the experiment together with users and city experts. However, proposed solutions must have business potential, as well as an innovative approach to the challenge. 

The City of Helsinki promotes the innovation and test platform activities for well-being, mobility and physical activity. Innovation challenges are an important tool for achieving this goal. Innovation challenges to increase physical activity have also been organised in the past to activate the City of Helsinki personnel, promote the mobility of elderly people, and utilise welfare technology in daily physical activity.

Applications for the innovation challenge must be submitted by 11 February 2022.

Additional information on the challenge and Helsinki test platform activities is available here.

The application form is available here. The application form is only available in Finnish. However, if you have questions regarding the application, please contact Roope Töllikkö (roope.tollikko@hel.fi).

News photo: All Helsinki residents, regardless of their age, are encouraged to engage in physical activity as much as possible. (Jussi Hellsten)