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Love Activity, Hate Exercise? – How Do You Position Your Facility?

Written by James Charles.

Could repositioning your facility from a place of exercise to a hub of fun, social activity help engage the unengaged, get the inactive active and improve the health of the nation?


Getting the inactive active is a huge challenge. Vast amounts are spent each year by governments, councils/municipalities and private organisations to inspire more people to be more active more often. The proven health benefits of physical activity include improving mental health, reducing disease, and ultimately extending the length of participants lives. But with the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting in their most recent findings that just under a quarter (23%) of the world’s adult population and an incredible 81% of 11 – 17-year-olds are ‘insufficiently active’, we clearly aren’t getting through to everyone.

What Are the Benefits of Physical Activity?

Image Taken from Public Health England/GOV.UK

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) are running a brilliant campaign this year titled ‘Love Activity, Hate Exercise?’ Their goal is to encourage physiotherapists across the United Kingdom to reposition their recommendation of ‘exercise’ to their patients, as part of their rehabilitation and ongoing management of long-term conditions, with ‘activity’, to overcome the traditional barriers associated with ‘exercise’ that stop so many of us getting moving.

The logic is, for many people, ‘exercise’ really isn’t attractive. In fact, if you think about the actual bare-bones of exercising – putting your body through stress which causes pain, sweating and shortness of breath – it surely isn’t attractive to anybody! What some of us are able to see are the benefits of exercise and how they outweigh the blood, sweat, and tears; we go to the gym and feel great afterwards, we’re training for a marathon and we take the hit because we can envisage the sense of accomplishment as we cross the finish line in a few months’ time, we know that when we attend a group exercise class we’ll have a laugh and catch up with our friends afterwards. But not everyone is programmed like this; and even if they are, they may not know it and if these benefits aren’t made obvious to them they will remain oblivious.

What may appeal more to this market is ‘activity’ – fun and games, social activities that they can enjoy doing with friends and family, a way to spend their leisure time as an alternative to watching a movie, going for a meal or hitting the shops; often without really even realising they are taking part in physical activity.

Many of the standard features of a traditional facility can be repositioned to appeal more in this way (focusing on the social aspects of attending the gym [in our research 58% of members cited this as something which motivated them to visit and making a friend was associated with a 40% decrease in the likeliness of cancelation] rather than how much a membership costs or the physical outcomes which may be achieved), but more and more operators are realigning what they do, at a strategic level, and investing significantly in new attractions for their facilities to meet these demands.


Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) – Yeah! Days Out

KAL Yeah! Days OutKirklees Active Leisure (KAL) are one example, with their ‘Yeah! Days Out‘ sub-brand. The Huddersfield, UK based trust have made a big commitment towards making fun the focus of their facilities, offering community activities which families and groups of friends can enjoy together. FootGolf and a waterpark are already in place; an inflatable theme park, kids play-gym, and laser-tag are soon to follow.

“By encouraging a more active lifestyle in a fun environment at an earlier age this will help to develop a ‘healthy habit’ for young people and their families, in turn improving their overall health and well-being and contributing to a reduced demand for health services in the future.” Barry Turnbull, Business Development Manager – KAL


Tees Active

Tees Active Website

Tees Active, up in the North-East of England, are another good example too. With their website clearly emphasising the more fun-focused, activity-based areas of their offering such as high-ropes, ice-skating and indoor climbing.

“Tees Active continue to try and find innovative ways to encourage participation in physical activity. This has meant moving away from the more traditional ‘sporting’ to ‘experience’ and ‘fun’ based activities and service. This has ensured our participation levels continue to grow year on year, meeting our social and business objectives. With more competition for the leisure pound than ever, we have found the key for us is to promote activities that appeal to a broad cross-section of the community rather than purely the elite sports and fitness enthusiast.” Gail McKenna, Health and Wellbeing Manager – Tees Active


Think about how you position your offering and what this looks like in the eyes of your target market. Whatever your facilities are like, how can you make visiting your club a more exciting, fun and collaborative experience for your members – somewhere they want to spend their leisure time that rivals the multitude of more sedentary options available to them. It’s time to put the leisure back into leisure centre!

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