Sport & Leisure lead Paul Reed shares his thoughts on the future of leisure.

We are delighted to see that in line with the governments’ “road map out of Covid” sport and leisure facilities re-opened across England last week, with dates planned for the same in Scotland and Wales toward the end of the month.

Over the last 6 months, and particularly over the last few weeks, we have seen first-hand the hard work and effort that operators and clients have put into ensuring their facilities are safe spaces for their members.

We hope everyone has enjoyed getting back to their fitness regime, whether in the gym or the pool, to aid their personal health and wellbeing.

UK Active data shows that prior to lockdown in 2020 participation levels in fitness activities were up on the same period in 2019 which was a very positive step.

Sport England research has shown that – in spite of lockdown – many of us have kept up our activity levels by finding different ways to partake in exercise, be it an online workout, a regular outdoor walk, or cycling.

The route to seeing health and fitness facilities back to full capacity will no doubt be a cautious one, with projections citing anything up to a year before members feel comfortable enough to return.

However, a return to capacity in these facilities will still only account for 9-10 million active users in the UK out of a population of over 60 million. With Public health being at the head of many current debates this is a statistic that needs to be addressed if we are to get more people active and support the NHS and UK population in our drive for a healthy, active nation.

At GT3, we believe that a fundamental part of our role is understanding, anticipating, and designing for the needs of our users. This means not only ensuring existing, active users engage well and enjoy their exercise facilities, but also create exciting, beautiful, and well-balanced facilities which support those underrepresented groups – the demographics who have never been to a gym and (perhaps tellingly) who gyms have never been truly designed for.

Throughout lockdown, as typical exercise environments and working practices were removed, we’ve seen many of these unrepresented groups take up a new form of exercise. Early Sport England research noted over 50% of adults agreed that they were encouraged to exercise based on the early government guidance with nearly 60% walking regularly.

We as an industry need to fully understand how our designs can be used to provide more welcoming and inclusive facilities for all, improving both the physical and mental health of our communities in the process.

GT3 will be launching the first in their Inclusive Design series next month; ‘How Leisure and Fitness Facilities can be better designed to support Caregivers in Leisure Centres’.