With the NHS pushed to its limits by Britain’s physical inactivity epidemic and local authorities facing funding crises as stretched social care budgets come under unprecedented demand, the onus on leisure providers to get the nation healthier is greater than ever before.
Tough times call for serious ingenuity, and leisure operator 1Life has been leading the way with a multi-pronged approach to health needs across its new contract in Milton Keynes. Eschewing the conventional one-size-fits-all approach to local leisure provision, 1Life has harnessed technology and innovation to create tailored solutions for the diverse needs of the local community.
Across the five-site leisure contract 1Life has developed a range of different activity options to engage specific sections of society as part of a £1.3m investment. Committed to inspiring a more active Milton Keynes, the operator has applied its expertise in behaviour change and exercise adherence to align with Sport England’s recently published strategy Towards an Active Nation.
Windmill Hill Golf Centre is a case that has seen 1Life focus its efforts on one of the toughest demographics to support: the deconditioned market. Along with the existing golf course, driving range and venue hire, the operator has put cutting-edge technology at the heart of its new Health and Wellbeing Studio, which is anchored by the unique milon exercise circuit. The easy-to-use machines automatically adjust to users’ settings, delivering a full-body workout in just 35-minutes. Meanwhile, 1Life’s team of experienced exercise professionals are on hand to support customers in their pursuit of a balanced health regime that uses carefully-set goals to maintain motivation.
“In the age of zero-subsidy contracts, local authorities are looking for leisure operators who will go the extra mile in delivering turn-key wellness solutions that really make a difference to the health of the local community,” says 1Life managing director Neil King.
“There will always be the 13 per cent or so of adults who naturally go to the gym, but we must come up with more creative solutions if we are to inspire the deconditioned market.
“This can present more of a challenge, but by having the right people, environment and exercise offering, we’ve been able to make a real difference to the lives of our new members in Milton Keynes and it’s a formula we’re eager to expand elsewhere as well.”
For King – and his growing company – every contract requires a highly bespoke approach and this was certainly the case for Milton Keynes. The borough has one of the most competitive gym markets in the country, but despite this, almost three quarters of the population are overweight – suggesting standard fitness offerings haven’t had the desired effect. This has led to 1Life imagining a broad range of new concepts, including the UK’s first Group Fitness Centre of Excellence and the conversion of a tired tractor shed into a thriving cross-training hub.
As for Windmill Hill Golf Course, the new Health and Wellbeing Studio was created out of a disused clubhouse, and the specialised centre has quickly made its mark – on both Milton Keynes' deconditioned market and the city's local authority.
“The reimagination of Windmill Hill clubhouse into a state-of-the-art wellness hub has been a massive hit with the deconditioned market, leading to a notable increase in usage and viability” says Paul Sanders, MK Council’s assistant director, community facilities.
“The situation needed innovation and 1Life provided that with a completely out-of-the-box wellness offering. The package they’ve put forward has provided exactly what we wanted in terms of income, protection and investment – it’s been a great result for us.”