WITHIN hours of a new anti-obesity game launching yesterday, thousands had started playing.

Organisers say Beat the Street turns Swindon’s roads, parks and paths into a massive game board.

The game’s beat boxes have been placed on lampposts at roughly half-mile intervals. People have to run, walk or cycle between the boxes, tapping their Beat the Street card against a second box within an hour to earn 10 points.

Schools and sports clubs have signed up to the scheme, hoping to score more points than their rivals and earn vouchers or soft toy prizes for their team.

Beat the Street is an initiative from Reading-based Intelligent Health. It is backed by Swindon Borough Council, with funding from Sport England.

It is hoped 20,000 people will sign up to the game. Katherine Knight, a marketing director at Intelligent Health, said by Tuesday evening 1,000 people had signed up to the game. And by 10.30am yesterday morning, 4,000 people had tapped the Beat the Street boxes.

Coun Brian Ford, lead member for health at Swindon Borough Council, said: “I was astounded when I’d just been told 4,000 people had taken party today. 4,000 people, that’s fantastic.”

He touched on Swindon’s obesity problem. Almost two thirds of adults in the town are overweight or obese and a third of 11-year-olds are deemed to be too heavy by Public Health England doctors.

“Beat the Street is important because we have a huge amount of obesity in Swindon,” Coun Ford said.

He admitted he was once among their number: “I was fat. I know that’s a word we shouldn’t use, but I do.” In the past two years he has lost two-and-a-half stone, mostly by spending extra time on the golf course.

Backing Beat the Street was part of a council ploy to get more people moving: “We have lots of programmes in the town to deal with lots of different issues. But most of them deal with 20, 30, 30 people at a time.

“That’s why I’m really pleased with this programme we’re starting today. We can make a difference.”

A class from nearby Drove Road Primary School visited the Civic Offices for the Beat the Street launch.

Layla, 10, said she’d already tried the game with her classmates: “It was actually really fun. We got to experience doing some exercise and exercise is always good. In PE you’re always doing something that you normally do. Beat the Street is something different.” Drove hoped to trounce rivals Mountford Manor in the points tables.

Kelly Reynolds, a sports coach at the primary school, said: “They like a bit of competition and it’s nice to get the families involved. With this, they can do it with nan.”

Beat the Street runs to Wednesday, October 24. To get a contactless card, visit a Swindon library, Great Western Hospital or participating shops. For more, visit: www.beatthetreet.me/swindon.