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15 Jan 2015

Serco and Sport England launch physical activity mentoring scheme
BY Jak Phillips

Participants can be referred through health services such as GPs, diabetes clinics, plus trips and falls clinics

Participants can be referred through health services such as GPs, diabetes clinics, plus trips and falls clinics

Leisure operator Serco is to roll out a mentoring programme aimed at tackling chronic inactivity across its sites, following a successful pilot run in partnership with Sport England.

The Healthy Life programme identifies individuals who do no exercise at all and supports them to build sustainable physical activity into their lives. 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 (e.g. gym, swimming, exercise classes) and assesses their progress at regular intervals.

To find suitable participants, Serco contacts slimming groups, housing associations and other groups in the local community. There are also referrals through health services such as GPs, diabetes clinics, plus trips and falls clinics, while individuals are also welcome to volunteer themselves.

The pilot study comprised 1,000 participants across four Serco leisure centres. It 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.

“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 making a real saving to healthcare across England,” said Sport England property director Charles Johnston.

“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.”

The programme is now being rolled out across all of Serco’s leisure contracts in England and Northern Ireland – spanning 70 facilities. It was recently announced that Serco is looking to sell its leisure arm as part of a strategy overhaul, however a company spokesperson told Leisure Opportunities that it is “business as usual” in the meantime.



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