25th April 2022
More than 200 pools have closed since the pandemic and Swim England fears we could lose 2,000 by the end of the decade if we continue on this path.
These leisure centre closures are completely out of step with the government’s new levelling up agenda, following the launch of its White Paper in February, which is ultimately about reducing inequalities and improving outcomes in all areas across the UK. The government’s vision extends to health and wellbeing, including obesity and life-expectancy measures.
Ensuring people have access to modern, fit-for-purpose sports and physical activity facilities is critical to reducing health inequalities. Obesity rates have soared during the pandemic, especially among children. The stats are shocking – according to the National Child Measurement Programme figures published in November 2021, two-fifths of children aged 10-11 in England are overweight or obese and more than a quarter of four to seven year olds are overweight.
Regular physical activity is key to maintaining a healthy weight and preventing a host of health conditions, but people need somewhere to do that physical activity. Yes, they can walk or jog outside, but these activities are not for everyone. In order to establish healthy, long-term habits, children and adults need to find things they enjoy and will be more inclined to stick to. Activities like exercise classes, swimming, basketball, netball or table tennis. In short, the type of activities that you would traditionally find at a leisure centre.
Closing leisure centres without providing alternative options will do nothing to improve health inequalities; in fact, it will only make them worse. We need to invest in modern, sustainable and fit for purpose leisure facilities where people will enjoy being active, however they choose to exercise.
As an athlete and sports presenter I’ve been fortunate to experience some of the best sports and leisure facilities in the world. Thanks to Paragon’s insulated tensioned membrane buildings, the UK can offer equally superior venues, which are bright, airy and energy efficient and which can be built at a fraction of the cost of traditional buildings and constructed significantly faster too. These structures are a viable solution to our leisure infrastructure crisis ensuring that people across the UK have access to high quality facilities to improve their health and wellbeing.