New research unveils a compelling connection between gym memberships and holistic health, with over half of new gym-goers aiming to address illnesses, and three-quarters experiencing improved mental well-being through fitness activities.
A January Surge: UK Embraces Fitness Resolutions
As the new year begins, a surge of hundreds of thousands of individuals across the UK are either joining or rejoining gyms, swimming pools, or leisure centers, driven by resolutions to enhance their fitness levels.
Survey findings commissioned by the UK Active, representing fitness operators, indicate that 55% of gym-goers perceive their membership as instrumental in managing short- or long-term health conditions.
The positive impact on mental well-being is notable, with more than three in four (78%) attesting to the gym’s favorable influence on mental health, and two-thirds (66%) reporting improved sleep quality through regular exercise.
Shifting Perspectives: Gyms as Community Wellness Hubs
Huw Edwards, ukactive’s chief executive, expresses optimism about the increasing recognition of physical activity’s true value in leading a fulfilling life. Fitness and leisure facilities are now seen as integral community spaces fostering health and well-being.
Approximately 10.3 million people in the UK are gym members, with January witnessing a surge in sign-ups. However, sustaining this commitment remains a challenge for many.
Matthew Fagg, NHS England’s director for prevention and long-term conditions, emphasizes the long-term benefits of becoming more active and achieving a healthy weight for individuals and communities. The NHS incorporates physical activity as a key component in programs aiding diabetics, smokers, and those seeking weight loss.
Acknowledging the challenges posed by illness-related unemployment, Huw Edwards calls on ministers to provide increased support to the fitness industry. Proposed measures include employers offering gym memberships or home fitness equipment as tax-deductible perks, alongside reforms in VAT and business rates to incentivize the opening of more fitness facilities.
Mental Health Disparities and Access Challenges
Andy Bell, CEO of the Centre for Mental Health thinktank, highlights the proven mental health benefits of physical activity. However, concerns are raised about unequal access to leisure facilities and green spaces, particularly for those with poorer mental health.
Leisure industry analyst David Minton criticizes gyms for not doing enough to attract individuals aged 16 to 34, the most likely age group to be members. He suggests targeting older demographics with specific health concerns and emphasizes the need for the fitness industry to adopt innovative language and marketing strategies to broaden its appeal.
Minton urges the sector to seize the influx of new members in January by not only helping them improve their healthy mobility but also fostering a sense of purpose. Transforming these members into enthusiasts and ambassadors, he argues, requires a fresh approach to encourage a more active lifestyle.
How do you find that staying active impacts your mental health? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.