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Public set to reap rewards in fitness loyality card plan

By Victoria O'Hara

Keeping fit is being made even more attractive in a new loyalty card scheme launched yesterday.

People can earn points for minutes of physical activity through the pilot programme, which are then exchanged for retail vouchers. Developed by Queen's University, the 'physical activity loyalty' - or PAL-card - was launched in Lisburn by Health Minister Jim Wells and is due to go live in spring 2015.

Using microchip technology, around 1,300 employees will carry a key fob which wirelessly communicates with special sensors placed around their workplaces in Lisburn city centre.

They will be encouraged to meet the recommended target of 150 minutes of physical activity per week and will be monitored by a team of experts at QUB.

The system works in a similar way to high-street loyalty cards and are redeemable at businesses which sign up to the project.

Described as "innovative", the pilot is investigating how financial incentives influence workplace physical activity.

Among those involved so far are the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Professor Frank Kee, director of the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health NI at Queen's University, and who is leading the trial, said: "This is an innovative study and an example of how Queen's University can partner with the public and business sectors to improve population health, using locally developed technology."

He added: "We are encouraging as many people as possible to take part in this study which we hope will have important findings for Northern Ireland as a whole."

Lisburn Mayor Andrew Ewing said: "Technology is so often blamed for our increasingly sedentary lifestyle and I am delighted that on this occasion new technology should hopefully have the opposite effect and encourage us all to be more physically activate as we go about our daily business."

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