The closing of gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools under COVID-19 restrictions is costing the NHS £7.25m a week in lost social value.
The figure has been calculated based on the loss of health interventions – physical and mental – normally offered by the sector.
This includes the way the sector contributes to the reduction – through exercise – of numerous health conditions, from stroke and cancer to Type 2 diabetes, dementia and depression.
“This evidence shows why the fitness and leisure sector provides such an essential service to communities across the UK"
Significantly, two thirds (66 per cent) of cancer prehab and rehab services are provided in leisure centres.
The latest figures come after analysis of the first lockdown in England showed that anxiety levels doubled compared to the 2019 average. There were also significant impacts on physical activity, with an extra 3.2 million people classed as inactive - ie, undertaking less than 30 minutes of exercise a week.
Evidence from data specialists 4Global shows that November’s lockdown restrictions on fitness and leisure venues cost more than £29m in terms of missed health-related social value savings.
Modelling shows the sector was due to generate health savings of £32.8m in November, yet only realised £3.3m of these, as the majority of services were forced to close.
Publishing the figures, ukactive is calling for physical activity facilities to be "the first in line" to reopen after restrictions are eventually lifted.
Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “This evidence shows why the fitness and leisure sector provides such an essential service to communities across the UK, from the vital mental and physical health benefits to the economic benefits.
“The closure of gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools during January and February poses a major threat not only to thousands of facilities and jobs, but also our nation’s health, and resilience to conditions including COVID-19, obesity and some cancers.
“We urgently need to see credible plans from the Government to work with our sector to keep people active and minimise the damaging impact lockdown has on the physical and mental wellbeing of people who rely on these COVID-secure facilities to stay strong and healthy."
source: Sports Parks and Leisure