The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the UK government to invest £875m in the nation's health and fitness and leisure facilities in order to help councils tackle obesity and other lifestyle diseases through physical activity.
According to the LGA, strategic investment is needed to help build or refurbish 25 new facilities each year over a three-year period and to create a network of hubs specifically designed to help people become more active in their everyday lives.
In addition, the investment should be targeted at those communities most in need of improved services.
"Many public facilities serve communities from lower socio-economic backgrounds and BAME communities, stepping in where private operators cannot afford to do so," the LGA said in a statement.
"As a result, data shows that the more deprived an area is, the more people prefer exercising in public sector facilities.
"Council-run centres are also vital in supporting grassroots and community activity and sports clubs through the provision of free or low-cost facilities."
The LGA made the call ahead of this week's Spending Review, citing research that suggests that 86 per cent of people say they prefer exercising in a leisure centre, when compared to more informal environments.
Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Chair of the LGA’s Sport Board, said: “The provision of affordable public leisure facilities is essential for levelling up an area and councils want to work with communities to design the health and fitness facilities, leisure centres, sports pitches, parks and other infrastructure that will best enable them to build activity into their lives.
“It cannot be understated the multitude of ways that public facilities contribute to society, from reducing the burden on the NHS and social care to improving our mental and physical health and supporting the ambitions of our sporting superstars.
"It’s imperative the upcoming Spending Review recognises this, with vital long-term investment in these cherished and vital services.”
The LGA also said investment should be used to build facilities that are "based on established environmental design plans".