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Fitness clubs on the front line of healthcare in a new initiative

Author: Tom Walker 4/7/2022

The Healthy Aging Challenge seeks to design a systems-based approach to better integrate facilities into the healthcare infrastructure / Shutterstock/Koldo Studio

The two-year research project is looking for ways to transform Great Britain’s Sports Centers into musculoskeletal (MSC) centers that could be used by the National Health Service (NHS).

Called the Healthy Aging Challenge, the goal of the project is to design a systems-based approach to better integrate leisure facilities into the nation’s healthcare infrastructure, turning them into a locally accessible network of community MSK hubs.

The project is run by a consortium including social enterprise Good Boost, industry body UK Active, Orthopedic Research UK, group rehabilitation program ESCAPE-pain and Arthritis Action.

The £1.4m investment project will test the delivery of accessible and affordable personal services for fitness, rehabilitation, wider wellbeing support and education.

The program is being piloted in premises across the UK and at home via a virtual community support app.

MSDs affect muscles, joints, ligaments and nerves and range from knee injuries to back pain and arthritis, making them the number one cause of disability worldwide and the third biggest spender on the NHS – around £5 billion a year.

Huw Edwards, chief executive of Ukactive, said: “Forecasts for NHS waiting lists show that things will get even worse in the coming years, but the potential of this project means we can start to significantly reduce pressure in the long term.

“We have a great opportunity to integrate the fitness and leisure sectors into every community’s healthcare system, providing millions of people with expert support and incredible facilities for pain relief through regular exercise.

“We are delighted to be part of this leadership team working with Good Boost, Orthopedic Research UK, ESCAPE-pain and Arthritis Action on this incredibly exciting project and look forward to sharing our findings.”

David Vaux, Therapies Manager and Practice Manager at Arthritis Action, said: “I am very excited about the potential impact that teams at leisure centers can have in helping people with arthritis to better manage themselves.

“The team at Arthritis Action share expert knowledge and techniques to break down some of the barriers to exercise that are commonly experienced by people with arthritis or long-term pain and mobility challenges.

“This project has the potential to provide a blueprint for charities and health organizations working in the leisure sector to proactively respond to the growing health and social care challenge posed by inactive ageing.”

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