As the Covid pandemic has ravaged the UK, updating sports facilities with fit-for-purpose sport flooring solutions that can provide speedy results has never been more important says Wayne Andrews, Sports Manager – North, Gerflor.
Obesity rates in the United Kingdom are the highest in Europe. In England, rates have increased faster than in most OECD countries. 2 out of 3 men are overweight and 1 in 4 people are obese in the United Kingdom. The proportion of people overweight in England is projected by the OECD to rise a further 10% during the next 10 years.
The restrictions on movement caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown are transforming the UK’s exercise habits, with home fitness workouts, cycling and walking now the most popular methods of exercise, according to a 2020 Savanta ComRes study commissioned by Sport England. The research also shows how the lockdown – and the threat of coronavirus in general – have led to people recognising the importance of physical activity to staying healthy. Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of adults say it is more important to be active now, compared with before the outbreak. An even larger majority of people (67 per cent) also believe exercise is helping them with their mental health during the shutdown.
Sport England CEO Tim Hollingsworth said that while the crisis is severely disrupting the sports and physical activity sector, the silver lining is that people are realising the importance of exercise. “This is a new and challenging time for everyone and it’s clear from this early research into the nation’s activity levels that there is significant disruption to how people usually seek to build physical activity and exercise into their lives,” he said. “It’s heartening to see, therefore, that for many, the importance of it has increased – and in particular that they see the benefit to their mental as well as physical health and wellbeing.”
As outlined by a Sport England recent report, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ seminal, comprehensive, review provides an analysis of evidence of the relationship between physical activity and various aspects of health. It illustrates the positive impacts of activity on several systems – cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, metabolic, endocrine, and immune. The overall conclusion is that those who are regularly active, even on a moderate basis, have lower mortality rates than the least active. It also outlines the positive impacts of physical activity on various aspects of mental health.
In April 2020, a survey by US company Statista carried out in the United Kingdom found that since the lockdown restrictions were imposed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 28 percent of respondents aged between 18 and 24 years were engaging in a little more physical activity than usual, while a further 12 percent were doing a lot more physical activity than usual.
As part of the UK’s response, school programmes are encouraging children to take more exercise and eat more healthily. But bringing down childhood and adult obesity and getting the nation in better shape is a widespread issue supported by evidence which shows that a healthy diet coupled with taking part in regular sport and other physical activity helps reduce weight, improve health, lower the risk of chronic illness along with a positive impact on wellbeing and happiness.
A review by the European Heart Network Expert Group on Physical Activity illustrates that a sedentary lifestyle more than doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease. It summarises the evidence that regular, moderate, and accumulated activity. can lower heart rate, raise insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure, raise HDL/total blood cholesterol ratio and helps weight control.
Never has it been more important to stay fit and healthy. For decades, health care professionals have cautioned people about the dangers of obesity. But those warnings have largely gone unheeded. Until recently, too many Brits viewed exercise and visits to the gym as the ticket to a beach body and not the first line of defence against deadly diseases. COVID-19 is finally changing that mistaken belief. Now, it is incumbent upon health professionals to help the British population get in shape. Lives depend on it. Being active is good for both body and mind and providing as many facilities as possible where ‘Britain’ can take part in sport and exercise is vital. With the current pressure caused by Covid the need to keep UK citizens as active as possible implies that sports facilities need to make their premises inviting. There are many public sector sports halls with immense square footage of flooring to cover who are faced with the challenge of extremely tight budgets.
Suitable flooring can be a cost-effective way of rejuvenating these sports facilities as replacing the flooring, which is typically a 600sqm area, really does make a big impression and can provide a much-needed facelift even simply from a change of colour. Interestingly, we are seeing far more client driven colour specification in sports halls and there is currently a move away from more traditional blues and greens to terracotta and bright oranges with plenty of grey. This is no coincidence as it reflects the trends in contract and residential interior décor. For example, dark grey with orange borders is as on-trend in sports halls as they are in homes!
However, money is not easy to come by and those responsible are often in need of substantial grants and investment from their local authorities and other organisations to help fund improvements. They may therefore need to prove value for money, longevity and return on investment to show that budgets have been well spent. As a result, products like floorings are likely to be highly scrutinised for their whole life cycle costs and performance values.
As renovating is currently more likely than re-building or extending, the refurbishment market in this sector is prospering and so offering fast-track product solutions which save time and money can be extremely attractive to sport centre management teams. After all they need to keep their premises out of use for as little time as possible and want affordable yet high quality renovation materials.
Importantly some synthetic sports floorings can contribute to low maintenance life cycles by not only being easy to dry sweep clean but also by lowering the need to re-line markings to around a seven-to-eight-year period. Making savings on traditional flooring refurbishments is also possible with the use of innovative isolator materials, synthetic sports flooring can be laid over an existing hard composite, polyurethane, or vinyl flooring without removing the old one. These innovations both save time and money when compared to having to remove existing floors.
Crucially, many sports hall floorings need to be versatile and suitable for many of the recreational sports like basketball, table tennis, five-a-side football and even tumble tots that local communities require. Point elastic vinyl floorings with properties suited to both multi-functional spaces and multi levels of sport offer comfort, protection from impact and different levels of shock absorbency according to the level of activity. These are P1 and P2 floorings with a P3 flooring being the equivalent of an elite sports floor.
In addition, optimising the economic use of a hall by ‘maxing’ the variety of sports that can be played on a flooring surface maybe a consideration for some facilities. Indoor cricket is one example of the potential for tapping into rental income from external clubs as there is a distinct lack of winter net facilities in the UK. Floorings that provide the correct ball bounce for the sport to be played successfully in winter months can provide that opportunity.
As a manufacturer, Gerflor are finding that versatile, quick-to-fit, synthetic sports floorings in bright attractive colours with superior performance and the suitability for a host of different sports are ticking many boxes within sports environments. Combine them with advanced, resilient vinyl floorings that offer the necessary technical and design attributes for other areas like dance, spin, cardio, aerobic, changing rooms, soft play, eating and reception areas and all-embracing flooring solutions are made possible.
Although no one could have predicted 2020 and living in a global pandemic, the fitness industry continues to evolve and adapt. The coronavirus crisis has caused a major shift in how and when we exercise. With a massive growth in digital, connected, and social fitness, it has been a year of community and social distancing. It goes without saying that 2020 has been a tough year but the fitness industry is resilient and fighting back.
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