Gym usage has reached an all-time high in Belfast as the public focus shifts to health and wellbeing in the wake of Covid-19, according to social enterprise GLL.
Membership numbers at the organisation, which operates 15 leisure centres across the city under the Better brand, surpassed pre-pandemic levels to reach 20,000 last month.
Two years after the onset of Covid-19 sparked a cycle of repeated closures and restrictions at gyms and leisure centres in Northern Ireland, the number of individuals investing in their mental and physical wellbeing is at its highest ever in Belfast, back from a low of 12,000 mid-pandemic.
The Better leisure centres in Belfast have seen a 120% return to activity when compared to 2019, which includes the use of its gyms, fitness classes, swimming pools and other sports facilities.
Announcing the figures, the social enterprise says the people of Belfast are some of the most committed to their health and wellbeing in the UK, as centres right across the city see a rise in demand.
The return rate of 120% in Belfast is the highest in the UK, and Lisnasharragh Leisure Centre in the east of the city now has the fourth highest pre-paid leisure membership of GLL’s full UK operation.
GLL is responding to this public commitment to live active, healthier lifestyles by adapting its operations to meet demand. Refurbishments at Olympia Leisure Centre in the south of the city have boosted the gym’s capacity, while changes to pool and swimming lesson schedules have ensured more children and young people are learning to swim.
Regional Director at GLL Gareth Kirk said: “Belfast is back better than ever before following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, and nowhere is that clearer than in the numbers we are seeing in our leisure centres.
“We are thrilled that so many individuals and families have committed to live healthier, more active lifestyles, and we enjoy being here for them as they do so. The growth in our membership base is a direct reflection of the desire among people to get active, improve their health and look after their mind, and we are in no doubt there is an element of post-Covid recovery to this.”
“There is no escaping the difficulties many people will have faced throughout the pandemic with less opportunities to work out in the gym or enjoy a swim, activities that we know are great for both the body and mind. With the pandemic now hopefully in the past, we are working to get more people and families active and improve the health and wellbeing of the population, which we hope will in turn ease the pressure on physical and mental health services in Belfast.
“We have identified some groups, particularly older people, where the return isn’t as quick, and we are working to ensure they know we are open, available, and here to support their health and wellbeing journey when they are ready.”