Free swimming continues to make a splash in Birmingham

b-activeThe national free swimming initiative for under-16s and over-60s may have been scrapped but Birmingham residents of all ages can still take the plunge free of charge – thanks to an award winning Birmingham City Council/NHS partnership.

Launched in September 2009, the Be Active scheme offers all Birmingham residents* free swimming, group exercise classes and gym sessions.

One in ten people across Birmingham are now enjoying free use of their council-run leisure centre thanks to the scheme, which will run until March 31 2011.

In contrast, the government last week announced that free swimming for under-16s and over-60s in England will be axed from the end of July.

Now Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture Cllr Martin Mullaney has urged residents to make the most of the free provision for the remaining nine months of the scheme.

He said: “I’m sure a lot of people have read or heard about the national scheme ending next month and inevitably some residents will think this applies to Birmingham. But, thanks to the Be Active scheme, our residents can still enjoy a range of free leisure services.

“The Be Active scheme has proved to be a huge success in Birmingham and we want to encourage more people to make the most of this provision between now and next April.

“Together with the three Birmingham NHS primary care trusts, we want to encourage people to be active for about half an hour at least five times a week.

“Whether you’re walking, cycling or going to the local leisure centre to swim or use the gym – it all counts when it comes to protecting your heart, your joints and keeping your weight down.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

Be active is sponsored by the Birmingham Health and Wellbeing Partnership, made up of Birmingham City Council and the three Birmingham NHS primary care trusts – Heart of Birmingham teaching Primary Care Trust, NHS South Birmingham and NHS Birmingham East and North. It also supports the national ‘Change 4 Life’ programme.

The Be active scheme is part funded by Be Birmingham’s Working Neighbourhoods fund and aims to get people to change their lifestyle, whilst improving their health.

* Be active is a free scheme available to all Birmingham residents who pay their council tax to Birmingham City Council. Be active participants can take part in free swimming, exercise classes or the gym at any Council-run leisure centre Monday to Friday before 5pm and weekends after 1pm. Please contact your local leisure centre for more information.

Be active: Facts and figures

  • Birmingham has 1,016,844 residents
  • Physically Active Children: 66% Birmingham, 71% England (Exercising three times a week. Source: Tellus Survey 2008)
  • Physically Active Adults: 17% Birmingham, 21% England (Exercising three times a week. Source: NatCen 2003/05)
  • Obese Children: 23% Birmingham, 15% England (Year-six: 10 to 11-year-olds. Source: PHIT Calculation, PCTs‘ Childhood Obesity Teams 2007/08)
  • Obese Adults: 23% Birmingham, 24% England (BMI above 30. Source: NatCen 2003/05)
    • Children’s Healthy Eating: 17% Birmingham, 23% England (Eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables. Source: NHS Information Centre 2003/05)
  • Adult’s Healthy Eating: 25% Birmingham, 26% England (Eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables. Source: NatCen 2003/05)
  • Be active is funded for an 18-month period. Total funding is £9million, working out as around £5million per year.
  • Initial targets for the scheme were: 86,000 signed up members, 23,000 of those at least exercising for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Resulting in 175 less premature deaths and 1,600 less cases of hypertension
  • Over 100,000 people have joined Be active in total, with over 50,000 new members since 1st September 2009
  • Over 1.5 million scheme attendances since the pilot began on 14th February 2008
  • Gym, fitness class and casual swim attendances up by over 10% on last year
  • 31 leisure centres are taking part in the scheme, these include 13 Pools, 23 Gyms and 7 Childrens’ Gyms
  • Since the launch of the scheme, a new full time ‘women only’ gym has been opened. All gym’s within the scheme now also provide between 2 – 10 hours a week of women only provision.
  • 500 fitness classes are run every week.
  • Gym and fitness classes are offered free across the city before 5pm on weekdays and after 1pm on weekends.
  • Swimming is available for free during all public sessions.
  • The ‘Extended offer’ also sees sessions being taken out into community settings to deliver a wide range of accessible sports and physical activities including badminton, football, dance, fitness and activities for families to take part in alongside each other.
  • There are nearly 50 walking groups currently established with more to be established soon alongside running and cycling groups
  • There are 438 contracted leisure staff across the city, rising to approximately 650 when including casual staff
  • Birmingham has: 35 swimming teachers, 370 life guards, 120 gym and fitness instructors (22 with new level 2 qualifications, 33 with new level 3 qualifications thanks to the Be Active scheme)
  • Over £100,000 of additional wages paid into the Birmingham economy

Be active’s pilot scheme ‘Gym for Free’ has won the following awards:

  • Guardian Public Services Awards 2009: Diversity and Equality and Overall winner
  • Local Government Chronicle Awards 2009: Health and Wellbeing winner
  • National Health Communicators Awards 2009: Social Marketing and Best Overall Scheme

For further information contact Geoff Coleman on 0121 303 3501

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