Leisure centre entrance charges and physical activity participation in England

Ward, Fiona and Halliday, Emma Catherine and Barr, Benjamin and Higgerson, James and Holt, Vivien Louise (2017) Leisure centre entrance charges and physical activity participation in England. Health Promotion International. ISSN 0957-4824

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Reducing or eliminating the cost to the public of using leisure facilities is one tool that local authorities have available to reduce inequalities in physical activity (PA). There is limited evidence about the effect of leisure entrance charges and their impact on participation. This study aimed to ascertain how facility pricing influenced the decisions people made about how to pay and what to pay for and how, in turn, these decisions impacted on participation for different groups. A total of 83 members of the public living in 4 local authorities in the North West of England were involved in focus groups or individual interviews. The results show that cost was a key factor which influenced PA participation in low income neighbourhoods. In practise, however, the majority of service users navigated the range of prices or payment options to find one that was suitable rather than simply reporting whether leisure was affordable or not. Whilst pre-paid options (e.g. direct debit memberships) encouraged participation, entrance charges incurred each time an individual participated had a negative impact on frequency but were a convenient way of paying for occasional use or for people who were unable to afford a pre-paid option. Free access also helped people who could not afford pre-paid membership to exercise regularly as well as incentivizing non-users to try activities. The research concluded that policies that include components of free access and offer more flexible payment options are most likely to contribute to reducing inequalities in PA.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Health Promotion International
Additional Information:
This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Health Promotion International following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version F Ward, E C Halliday, B Barr, J Higgerson, V Holt; Leisure centre entrance charges and physical activity participation in England, Health Promotion International, , dax095, https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/dax095 is available online at:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? physical activityneighbourhoodpublic healthhealth(social science)public health, environmental and occupational health ??
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Deposited On:
20 Dec 2017 14:12
Last Modified:
31 Dec 2023 00:53