Lord Coe report hails Be Active

By on 18/02/2014 in Cllr Bedser, News
Cllr Steve Bedser

Cllr Steve Bedser

Birmingham's award winning Be Active scheme was singled out in a major report by Olympic chief Lord Coe as he launched a campaign to get the UK more physically active.

The scheme, offering free access to a wide range of physical activities across Birmingham, was singled out as an example of best practice in the report Moving More, Living More The Physical Activity Olympic and Paralympic Legacy for the Nation.

Moving More, Living More aims to promote physical activity across the country's population, as part of the legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

And Be Active was one of three examples of good practice from local government that 'demonstrate the firm foundation of innovation, commitment and existing good practice upon which we all can build'.

  • Be Active is a Birmingham-wide scheme designed to help everyone increase their Physical Activity by removing cost as a barrier and provide locally accessible places for people to be active and improve their wellbeing. The scheme is Public Health and Local Authority funded and offers over 50 different activities in the cities gyms, pools and community venues.
  • Be Active has now been running city-wide in Birmingham since 1st September 2009. The scheme currently has over 400,000 members from Birmingham, which represents about 1 in 3 of the entire population. This equates to 16,000 attendances per week.
  • Evaluation of the scheme has demonstrated positive impacts in terms of increasing activity levels for residents – previously 20% of Be Active members were totally inactive but 89% of these have now increased their activity levels to moderately or very active over 3 months. In addition analysis demonstrates that the scheme generates significant return on investment. The programme has won a number of awards for tackling health inequalities, partnership working and social marketing, and the independent evaluation/evidence of the scheme's impact.
  • Following the success of the scheme, the city has now also launched the 'Active Parks' programme - a 'Leisure Centre without Walls' type approach which enables people to get active in their local parks and green spaces.

Welcoming the recognition, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing and Be Active champion, Cllr Steve Bedser, said: “Be Active exists because we recognise the need for people to be more physically active in Birmingham and the results speak for themselves.

“Since 2009, thousands of people across the city have made the most of free access to gyms, classes, swimming pools and other activities.

“Over 400,000 people have signed up for Be Active but we know there is still a lot of hard work to do. Too many people in Birmingham are still inactive and we need to identify and remove the barriers.

“We know that, for a variety of reasons, some people will never attend our gyms and leisure centres. So we're now moving into our parks and open spaces by expanding our Active Parks programme following a very successful pilot scheme.

“The opportunities are there for people in Birmingham and it's pleasing to see that local authorities from across the UK and indeed further afield are starting to emulate Be Active.”

Be Active Background

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.

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