Free gym memberships branded a success in Capital

Stock image of gym.

Stock image of gym.

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TWO-thirds of Edinburgh residents given free gym memberships have managed to lose weight.

The taxpayer-funded scheme, open to inactive adults living in communities affected by poverty, also gave participants access to fitness and relaxation sessions.

Over the past year, more than 300 people have been referred to the Edinburgh Leisure programme - funded by a £800,000 Scottish Government grant.

More than 60 per cent of residents in the Lothians are classed as overweight or obese, and health officials introduced the intervention to encourage adults over 45 to be more active and healthy.

Six out of ten adults who took part in the Edinburgh Active Lives project reported losing weight, with 100 per cent saying they have experienced better health.

Participants have also reported making less visits to their GP following the intervention.

As well as free gym sessions, the scheme gives participants a membership card, allowing them to access exercise classes at a discounted rate.

The grant is part of the Scottish Government Commonwealth Games physical activity fund.

Gracemount, Ainslie Park, Leith Victoria, Drumbrae, Meadowbank and Jack Kane sports centres have all signed up. Minister for public health and sport, Aileen Campbell, said the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014 was still inspiring Scots to get more healthy.

She said: “The 2014 Commonwealth Games was a huge success, widely hailed as the best ever, and we wanted to harness that and ensure a lasting physical activity legacy.

“The Legacy 2014 Fund is key to that and is open to communities across Scotland who are looking to access money and make difference in their area – something Edinburgh Leisure’s Active Lives is a great example of.”

Edinburgh Leisure’s chief executive, June Peebles, added: “Physical activity is making such a positive difference to their lives and helping them to now be more able to make healthy lifestyle choices.”

Jeanette Thomson, 65, participant, said: “I have been looking after my special needs son for 25 years and recently he went to stay Monday to Friday at Camphill Community.

“It was then that I realised how overweight and unfit I had become, I relied on the car to take my son everywhere as it was easier so this resulted in me having very little opportunity to do any exercise. I knew I had to do something about it for myself and my son as he still needed me. I was referred by my health professional to the Active Lives project. I was really nervous and unsure how I would feel going to a leisure centre and was worried about feeling out of place and on display. I now walk short distances rather than take the car and have even ventured into the gym which I would never have had the confidence to do before.”