News and Views

Irish exercise app for older adults wins international innovation competition

5 Jul 2021
  • Irish-created Spree, an exercise app that reduces the risk of frailty in older adults, wins Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity 2021

  • Winning entry secures €10,000 development app

  • 256 registrants from 53 countries enter contest backed by UCC, Sport Ireland, and UNESCO


An Irish developer has won an international competition that sought innovative ways to promote physical activity, having developed an exercise app that reduces the risk of frailty in older adults.

The Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity 2021 - hosted by University College Cork (UCC), in association with Sport Ireland and with UNESCO patronage - had 256 registrants from 53 countries, including Cambodia, Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius, Bulgaria and Costa Rica.

These entrants responded to the challenge to design innovative ways of increasing participation in sport and physical activity in an inclusive, sustainable and fun way. The challenge is a bid to engage more people in sport and physical activity following a year of lockdown and restrictions that have seen participation levels plummet.

Following an extensive evaluation of the entries, the judges chose Spree from Ireland as the overall winner of the top prize of a €10,000 development grant.

Spree is an exercise app for reducing the risk of frailty in older adults, and encourages communities to support at-risk individuals.

The app consists of three user roles: - ‘Champions’, who are near-frail older adults who will be guided through accessible and appropriate exercises to maintain their mobility, ‘Spotters’ who will nominate and aid their Champions in the initial setup, and act as their personal coach, and ‘Supporters’: friends and family of the Champion cheering loudly from the sidelines.

By reducing the barrier to entry, the app aims to encourage more older adults to take up and continue to exercise.​

Dr Fiona Chambers, Head of the School of Education at UCC, and Senior Lecturer in Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy said the judging panel were faced with the difficult task of selecting winners from a competitive field of innovative ideas.

“The quality of the submissions and the work and effort made by the submitting teams has blown the judges away. The teams really helped to deliver on the vision and mission of the Global Design Challenge by creating and developing new innovative ideas from around the world that enable people of all ages and abilities to lead active healthy lives,” Dr Chambers said.

“We want to give a huge, heart-felt thanks to our patron UNESCO, our major partner, Sport Ireland and all the partners, supporters, colleagues, friends and participants who have made the Global Design Challenge 2021 a success. Through all of your contributions, we have created opportunities for everyone to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of being physically active across their lifespan,” she said.

Dr. Una May, Director of Participation and Ethics, Sport Ireland said:

“Sport Ireland is pleased to support the Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity in a year that has been hugely challenging for sport around the world. The initiative has highlighted the importance of creativity and innovation if we are to get more people active and involved in sport and physical activity world-wide. It has also created a new platform for people to put forward ideas and progress these ideas, which is to be welcomed.”

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University College Cork

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