UNITED KINGDOM -- A new study out of the UK says the UK Health & Fitness Sector -- valued at almost GBP 2.5 billion (USD $4.7 billion) -- has grown in value by 4 percent over the last year, and now has more members than at any time in its 20-year history. Additionally, the report found that almost 90 percent of the UK population lives within two miles of a private health club or public health and fitness facility.
Commissioned by UK's non-profit Fitness Industry Association (FIA), the findings were part of its annual review of the UK industry, titled, "2006 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report," compiled by The Leisure Database Company. FIA represents almost 2,500 public and private organizations across the UK.
The report said that UK consumers now have a choice, on average, of seven private health clubs within two miles of where they live and two public health and fitness facilities. In London, consumer choice is even greater with 31 private clubs and six publicly owned health and fitness facilities within two miles of where they live.
"We now have two very clear choices: either tap into a proven national resource and make a real impact on the health of the nation, or ignore the fact that almost everyone is within two miles of an exercise facility, as well as trained fitness professionals and continue to bemoan the fact that the UK is getting fatter and sicker," said Andree Deane, FIA's CEO, in a statement.
"There is a mountain of research which proves that being active does help to combat … obesity-related ailments. Therefore, what we need now is not investment in new facilities, or further research but investment in increasing utilization of existing facilities," Deane added.
In 2005, fitness-only and multipurpose facilities accounted for almost 85 percent of new clubs in the UK, the study found. FIA concluded that consumers are looking for facilities that offer a range of activities and allows them to choose when and for how long they exercise -- as opposed to signing up for scheduled classes.
The report also noted that total number of people employed in the private sector has risen by 2.6 percent to almost 52,000 full and part-time employees. In addition, the number of trained fitness professionals has risen by over 30 percent to almost 40,000 over the last 12 months.
SNEWS® View: This is all good news. But it doesn't erase the fact that just this past March during the UK's sixth-annual Obesity Awareness Week, The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust reported obesity in the UK has grown by 400 percent in the last 25 years. That means that two of three adults there are now classified as overweight or obese, beginning to rival the United States. The trust also said that one in three children is overweight, while one in nine is obese. Hopefully, Caroline Flint, the new "minister for fitness" appointed in late August by the UK government to tackle obesity in the country, will be able to utilize FIA's report findings, as will the fitness industry in trying to truly help people understand how to get fit and healthy.