News & Insights 4 November 2020

Outdated planning permission laws are undermining solutions to the current obesity epidemic

An article in The Telegraph is attempting to draw public attention to a prominent issue affecting high streets up and down the country. Outdated planning permission regulations are posing a huge challenge to leisure companies wishing to convert derelict high street units into gyms and fitness suites. The article even suggests that it would be easier for a shop selling fitness equipment to be converted into a fast food restaurant than it would be for that same shop to be converted into a gym!

With the current obesity crisis placing an astronomical burden on the NHS, it is unsurprising that such an issue has come to light. The difficulty that leisure companies are encountering when trying to open new facilities is alarming, alongside the fact there are two times as many fast food outlets as there are public parks across the country. In combination, these issues certainly underlines the severity of the obesity epidemic we currently face. However, opening new gyms is not necessarily overly beneficial in encouraging individuals to improve their physical activity habits.Despite being a facilitator of physical activity, it is unlikely that the provision of more exercise facilities will motivate or inspire those individuals who are presently inactive.

The problem is far more complex than it first appears. The language used when discussing inactivity is a major issue. Throughout the article, NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens regularly uses the term ‘exercise’ rather than ‘physical activity’ when referring to a solution. For many, the word exercise alone is enough to put them off becoming more active, inducing unpleasant thoughts of sweaty, uncomfortable workouts at a busy gym.

It’s not just the NHS that falls foul in this respect, many other major public health organisations are alienating a large majority of the population with their choice of language. This goes some way to explaining why there is still a general lack of understanding as to how physical activity can and should be utilised in the context of health. Rather than continuing to force the exercise narrative–an approach which is quite evidently ineffective–industry leaders must change their approach to one which promotes all movement as beneficial. This would enable individuals to understand the value of each move they make, reinforcing the fact that physical activity does not necessarily need to involve ‘sport’ or ‘exercise’, and ultimately encouraging participation at a much larger scale.

At KiActiv®, we utilise a well-rounded and sustainable approach to address these issues. The multi-dimensional approach makes the benefits of physical activity more accessible to all age ranges, shifting the focus away from ‘exercise.’ Everyday activity enables an individual to learn and understand the value of every movement they make during their normal daily routine. There are 112 waking hours in which we can be active every week, this far outweighs the time that even the biggest fitness fanatic will spend at the gym-so why not focus on filling this time with as much movement as possible.

Everyday activity can come in the form of even the most mundane tasks, from cooking and vacuuming to hanging the washing out and gardening.Every movement matters and it is our mission to empower our clients to make better choices for the good of their health. The most important aspect of changing behaviour is the individual, and our personalised approach reflects this. Everyone is different and will have numerous different factors influencing each decision they make so we must acknowledge that opening more gyms is unlikely to solve the problem. Instead, if we are to make any real progress, we must use joined up thinking and adopt an innovative approach to physical activity to identify comprehensive solutions.

The KiActiv® Team