Women are driving a major transformation of community leisure centres, with growing numbers swapping traditional activities like swimming for spin bikes and other group workouts, a landmark report has revealed.

The number of people visiting leisure centres for group exercise classes such as cardio and indoor cycling has risen by almost 30 per cent in the past two years, with almost two thirds of class participants female.The findings are detailed in Moving Communities: Active Leisure Trends a major insight report which paints a compelling picture of how local leisure facilities are evolving in line with consumer trends.

Using data from over three million customers and 130 million individual visits across 315 leisure centres over the past two years, the report offers an unparalleled overview of the leisure landscape and how Brits are getting fit.

The report also found that:

  • Total membership across the sites increased 9 per cent from FY16 to FY17, indicating an increasing desire to take part in physical activity.
  • Proportion of visits for indoor cycling classes has boomed by 79 per cent since 2016, with this and cardio classes accounting for over 50 per cent of total group workout visits.
  • Proportion of visits for swimming has fallen 15 per cent since 2016, but it remains the most popular single activity, accounting for 35 per cent of all leisure centre visits.
  • Leisure centres are more ethnically diverse than the population as a whole, with Asian and Black users accounting for 13 per cent and 8 per cent of members respectively (8 per cent and 3 per cent of the overall UK population).
  • Over 65s are hugely under-represented, making up 9 per cent of the membership base compared to 22 per cent of overall UK population, suggesting latent potential for operators to engage older adults.
  • Saturday is the quietest day of the week despite being the day when people have the most free time, indicating significant opportunities to increase capacity, particularly through more family-friendly activity offerings.

Created by not-for-profit health body ukactive in collaboration with activity insight platform the DataHub, the report highlights the primacy of leisure centres in delivering community activities at a time when local authority leisure budgets are under intense strain.

Collected from the membership management systems of leisure centre operators, then standardised and processed by the DataHub, the insights include an analysis of who is visiting facilities, when they are visiting and what they are doing, as well as an in-depth look at certain demographic groups.

The number of overall visits to facilities increased by 17 per cent from 2015 to 2016 across the sites, while current indications for 2017 suggest that visitor numbers will be in line with the previous year’s total of 54m.