Enjoy the Olympics but Be active Birmingham

By on 11/06/2012 in Cabinet, Cllr Bedser, News

With less than 50 days to go to the start of the Olympic Games, Birmingham residents are being urged not to be couch potatoes this summer.

Birmingham City Council’s new Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Steve Bedser, has launched a new-look Be active scheme for 2012/13.

And, with over 50 sports now on offer as part of Be active, Cllr Bedser insists the award-winning free scheme has something for everyone.

New timetables come into operation this week and organisers hope the enhanced scheme will encourage more people out of their armchairs and into the gym.

Cllr Bedser said: “We know it's going to be a massive summer for televised sport but while people will enjoy watching the Olympics, European Championships and Wimbledon, there's no substitute for participating in sport yourself.

“Be active has been a huge success over the last few years and over 350,000 people have now signed-up to the scheme.

“But we were aware that many people saw this as merely free gym and swim, so we've responded to customer feedback and broadened the scope of the scheme. Now there really is something for everyone.”

John Denley, Consultant in Public Health for the NHS in Birmingham, added: “The huge range of activities now on offer means that there really is something for everyone, everyday and each leisure centre - and it's still free.

“Be active has evolved over the past 12 months and now caters for all ages and abilities so that everyone can join in. Be Active not only includes Gym and Swimming classes, but a variety of other activities from Aerobics right through to Zumba. There's so much on offer at leisure centres and parks across the city.

“Summer is the ideal time to get out and about and get moving, and Be active is the perfect opportunity to feel the physical benefits, lose weight, get fitter and feel better. It's easy to join - just go along to your local leisure centre with proof of identity to get a leisure card.”

Over 350,000 people are now registered for the scheme, meaning one in three people across Birmingham enjoy free use of their council-run leisure facilities, attending gyms, swimming pools, walking groups, and fitness classes and reaping the health and wellbeing benefits it brings.

In addition to daily swim and gym sessions at all major leisure centres across the city, the new-look Be active scheme offers tennis, bowls, basketball, fencing, gymnastics, netball, badminton, table tennis, Tai Chi, yoga, boxercise, power plates, cycling, walking and much more at leisure centres and parks across the city.


For more information contact Geoff Coleman on 0121 303 3501

Notes to Editors

Details of FREE Be active sessions across the city can be found on the new website www.beactivebirmingham.co.uk

Photographs can be downloaded here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/birminghamnewsroom/sets/72157630103587032/

Be active is a city-wide scheme, designed to help everyone increase their physical activity for free. With such a wide range of activities to choose from there is something for everyone at every leisure centre across the city, to help you lose weight, reduce the risk of illness and even boost your confidence.

Be active is available to anyone who lives in a property eligible for council tax in Birmingham. You will need to take two forms of identification with you to your local leisure facility when you join Be active. All you need to access Be active is a Leisure Card which can be accessed from your local leisure centre.

The scheme was initially called Gym for Free and was launched in February 2008 in the Ladywood Constituency to 100,000 residents as a joint initiative between NHS Heart of Birmingham tPCT and Birmingham City Council.

Gym for Free offered free swimming, fitness classes, and gym sessions to all of the residents of the constituency as long as they exercised at least 4 times per month. There was no upper limit to the number of times they could attend exercise sessions and the only other criteria was residency within the constituency.

Initially there were only 95 people across Ladywood regularly exercising on the local authorities direct debit scheme (the closest benchmark). Within 6 months there were 7,000 people on the Gym For Free scheme. Demand was through the roof and people were queuing for up to 2 hours to access sessions.

By November 2008 the scheme was rolled out to the rest of the Heart of Birmingham PCT area, some 300,000 people.
The scheme continued to prove successful and won a number of awards for tackling health inequalities and also social marketing.


60% on scheme from the Black and Minority Ethnic communities. Traditionally hard to reach groups, such as Bangladeshi and Pakistani women, are over-represented.

Average age of people in the gyms on the scheme is 49 but in the private gyms is 29.

In those signing up to the scheme:

50% overweight or obese.

50% had raised blood pressure.

25% smoke.

20% said health poor or very poor.

20% suffered extreme/moderate anxiety and depression.

This means that those communities with the biggest health gain to make are the ones using the scheme the most.

74.3% of users were not previously a member of a leisure centre, gym, or swimming pool before joining.

Results from the early qualitative evaluation demonstrated that:

  • Price is a barrier to participation.
  • Access to free exercise increased people's likelihood to participate.
  • Hard to reach groups including women and ethnic minority communities engaged with the scheme.
  • Regular exercise increased participants self reported sense of wellbeing.
  • Participation on the scheme increased participant demand for other lifestyle information such as smoking cessation and alcohol advice.
  • Discussions began with the 3 PCTs across Birmingham to see if there could be a city wide offer for residents using the Gym for Free pilot model.
  • On 1st September 2009 the scheme went live to all 1.1 million people in the city. The scheme was renamed Be active and all 50,000 members of the Gym for free scheme were transferred across.
  • The scheme now also provides classes at community centres and other venues that aren't leisure centres to ensure as much access to the community as possible.

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