Sports centre benefits get in shape with £32m savings

Edinburgh Leisure commissioned the study on the benefits of exercise
Edinburgh Leisure commissioned the study on the benefits of exercise
Have your say

A GROUNDBREAKING new report has calculated that sports centres in the Capital are saving the city tens of millions of pounds.

The study, commissioned by Edinburgh Leisure, shows that sports grounds, swimming pools and other leisure facilities generated an overall economic gain of more than £32 million by keeping residents healthier.

The figures, produced by accountancy and business advice firm Baker Tilly, calculated the savings on the basis of reduced healthcare costs, sickness absence and antisocial behaviour as a result of having a fitter, more active population.

Edinburgh Leisure bosses said the figures, based on data for the 2010-2011 financial year, could encourage future investment in city sports facilities.

John Comiskey, Edinburgh Leisure chief executive, said: “Traditionally, the council measured performance in terms of customer visits and so on. What we have not been able to do until now is measure the impact of what we offer.

“Intuitively, we have always known that if people are fitter, they do not need to go to the doctor as much, or go to hospital as much, or take as much time off work, and there will be a financial gain there.

“We are pleasantly surprised. It’s the first time we have produced a report of this kind and we are certainly very happy that the figures are so high.”

According to the report, savings of £32.5m include £25.5m saved through a reduced need for healthcare, with a further £5.9m gained through reduced sickness absence.

The report is based on an analysis of between 60 and 65 per cent of the activities of Edinburgh Leisure.

Significant areas not covered in the report include coaching programmes (other than swimming) and tennis.

Mr Comiskey said the figures were based on the Social Return on Investment (SROI) model, which uses three broad categories – economic benefit, costs saved and cheaper sourcing – to measure the value of particular outcomes.

He said: “[The report’s authors] have looked at the overall health costs per person in Scotland and they have worked out an estimate for how much more it costs to treat someone who is not physically active.

“So someone who is physically active will be so many percentage points less likely to have certain ailments and is therefore less likely to go to hospital and so on.

“Or you take a figure for GDP per head per day and then look at average figures for the number of days less a physically active person will take off from work because they are not well and work out the saving.”

The report’s findings were welcomed by the council’s culture and leisure leader, Richard Lewis.

He said: “This flags up the strong correlation between well-managed fitness services and people’s wellbeing, both mental and physical.

“The Capital coalition is committed to maintaining support for and investment in Edinburgh’s sporting infrastructure to ensure that we make it as easy as possible for residents to keep active and healthy.”

Edinburgh Leisure in the past financial year:

Total economic benefits generated by activities: £32.5m

Total savings in healthcare costs : £25.25m

Savings due to reduced antisocial behaviour: £97,000

Edinburgh Leisure’s total revenue: £25.7m

Edinburgh City Council grant: £9.2m

Savings made through Edinburgh Leisure’s activities calculated on the basis of reduced need for hospital services/healthcare, policing and so on. Figures are based on national average figures (for the cost of healthcare per person, GDP per head etc)