Serco, a leading provider of leisure services for local authorities and Community Trusts, has launched an innovative new programme which helps to improve the health and wellbeing of local people by providing personalised support to motivate them to become more physically active.
The Healthy Life programme identifies individuals who do no exercise at all and supports them to build physical activity into their lives in a way that is realistic for them to continue. Under the programme, each individual is assigned a health and wellbeing coach who encourages them to take part in activities at their local leisure centre (eg, gym, swimming, exercise classes) and assesses their progress at regular intervals.
Following a successful pilot run by Serco in partnership with Sport England, the programme is now being rolled out across all of Serco's leisure contracts in England and Northern Ireland and will be offered as standard on all new leisure contracts.
The pilot found that after 12 weeks, 54 per cent of participants were still enjoying some level of increased physical activity, with 29 per cent reaching the target of taking part in 30 minutes of exercise every week.
The results - which were independently evaluated by Brighton University - showed that as well as helping people to lose weight, the increased physical activity also led to significantly improved mental wellbeing, reduced stress levels and increased sleep quality.
Everyone that took part was given a discounted membership rate at their local leisure centre and was assigned a health and wellbeing coach to encourage and support them throughout the programme. Assessments showed that the coach was key to success, with 94% of those taking part saying the one to one support was the main factor that motivated them to become more active.
After six months, more than one third of those still participating in the programme were taking part in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each week.
In addition to the significant physical and mental health benefits physical activity brings to the individuals, there is also estimated to be a real saving to the NHS.
Sport England research suggests that every non-active person in the UK costs the NHS between £1,750 and £6,900. On this basis, the 376 retained participants at six months have saved future NHS budgets at least £658,000.
And with public health the responsibility of local authorities under the Health and Social Care Act (2013), the role local leisure centres can play in improving the health of local people is more important than ever.
Diane Bagley, Head of Community and Sport Development for Serco Leisure, said: "As a provider of leisure centres across the UK, Serco understands how healthy lifestyles can improve people's physical and mental wellbeing. We also understand how difficult it can be for people to fit physical activity into their lives and to stay motivated, which is why the one to one coaching is a key part of our Healthy Life programme. Following the success of our pilot, we are looking forward to working in partnership with our other local authority customers to help improve the health and wellbeing of their local communities."Read more
Sport England Property Director, Charles Johnston, said: "We want to get more people to play sport and exercise regularly, which can make a big contribution to tackling inactivity, improving health and wellbeing, and make a real saving to healthcare across England. We were pleased to have supported the pilot of Serco's Healthy Life programme and it is great to see it now being rolled out across the country. By supporting individuals who currently aren't active to give exercise a go, we hope to help them build the foundations for a lifelong sporting habit."
Alison Caller, 40, from Bolton is a librarian and mum of two young children. She found it very difficult to get motivated to exercise as her only opportunity is in the evenings after her children have gone to bed. The one to one support from the Healthy Life coach at her local leisure centre gave her the encouragement and advice she needed to start running, and she has since completed a 5k race.
She said: "I was feeling quite fed up as I was the only inactive member of the family and felt I had no 'me time'. The advice I got was great and I'm generally running three times a week now. I've lost about over three and a half stone, I have more energy and I feel happier. The only disadvantage is I've become a running bore and I tell everyone how wonderful it is."