78% of People Join a Health Club to Manage Their Mental Health

Could the gym industry solve many of the UK’s public health challenges? UK Active CEO Huw Edwards believes so. He...

Could the gym industry solve many of the UK’s public health challenges? UK Active CEO Huw Edwards believes so.

He argues it's ‘the solution to many of the nation’s public health challenges’, and the results of a recent consumer study support this, with 78% saying they’ve joined a health club to manage their mental health and wellbeing. Interestingly, 55% of those surveyed also said they’d joined to help manage a physical condition. This may surprise some people as it's easy to assume that people join a gym for more aesthetic reasons, like weight management or muscle definition.

It’s why Huw Edwards believes the Government can work with providers to address the impact of ill health on the UK’s working population.

He argues that ill health amongst working-aged people is likely to cost the UK economy around £150 billion a year, which is a 60% increase in the last six years. He points to a recent Deloitte report, which suggests encouraging inactive workers to be more active could save the economy £17 billion.

But it’s not just physical health that’s important for the employers and the economy.

1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue this year in England, but in 2022, The Royal College of Psychiatrists said people were having to wait 12 weeks or more to access treatment. In 2022, it was also revealed that the number of people waiting for community mental health care had risen to 1.2 million, which mental health charity Mind said is ‘the cumulative result of years of underfunding combined with overwhelming demand for mental health’.

Imagine having even mild symptoms of depression or anxiety and being unable to access treatment for three months or more. The idea that gyms and health clubs can step in and support people within a fitness setting is interesting.  Many of us who exercise regularly will be familiar with its mood-boosting qualities. It may be hard to believe for those who aren’t active, but research suggests that physical activity is good for the brain.



One of the main benefits of exercise over medication is that it’s far cheaper to prescribe, comes with fewer side effects, and offers many other related health benefits.

It should be noted, however, that exercise, especially for people who’ve been physically inactive for some time, should be done under a doctor’s supervision. And exercise isn’t always the first port of call, nor will everyone struggling with a mental health issue feel motivated or able to start exercising.

Karmel Choi, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the Centre for Precision Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Washington Post that 'depression is not one size fits all. So treatment should be tailored to the individual'. But there is something to this.  Exercise could help people improve their mental health without the need for lengthy waiting lists or expensive and powerful drugs.

Huw Edwards writes that gym memberships shouldn’t be seen as a ‘nice to have’, especially during difficult economic times when people may be financially unable to access membership. He believes medical professionals should more readily prescribe it.

The NHS recommends that the average adult exercise between 75 and 150 minutes weekly. It doesn’t have to mean racing on a treadmill or signing up for a HIIT class. Most gyms now offer a range of classes and facilities that are more diverse and designed to be fun. This could be Zumba, walking football, puppy yoga, pole fitness, martial arts, tap dancing or 80s aerobics. Energym installs electricity-generating indoor bikes in gyms and studios along with immersive software packages to make classes more fun and engaging.

And it’s not only gym memberships that help support more active and healthier lifestyles. Walking is a great, low-impact way to boost mental health. Gardening is another example. Many studies have supported the idea that some physical activity is better than none.

Exercise can be beneficial to employees. Research suggests that physical activity during the working day can reduce stress, increase productivity and focus and boost creative problem-solving. It’s one reason Energym is releasing the ECO:POD in 2024, which supports employee wellness using exercise and electricity-generating indoor cycling bikes.

And, of course, there’s a benefit for the industry too. Edwards explains that full support for the integration of the sector with the NHS, as well as long-term provision of swimming pools and leisure facilities, would be beneficial for everyone. Changes to the current tax and regulation system would also help gyms and health clubs expand and attract new clients.

Find out more about Energym's electricity-generating indoor bikes for the home, gyms, and offices on our website. 


Man standing next to the electricity-generating indoor bike



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