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Chelmsford gets active as leisure centre visits reach record numbers

Chelmsford’s community leisure centres have achieved their highest attendance numbers to date, with almost 1.7 million visits between April 2023 and March 2024.

More residents than ever are choosing to get active with the help of classes and facilities at Chelmsford Sport and Athletics Centre (CSAC), Dovedale Sport Centre, Riverside Leisure Centre, and South Woodham Ferrers Leisure Centre. And it’s not just one-off visits – a whopping 4,856 new customers signed up to monthly memberships last year. That’s 13 new joiners, every single day!

Leisure Centre Members Can Access A Wide Range Of Fitness Classes
Leisure centre members can access a wide range of fitness classes.

Growing membership base

Both Riverside and CSAC now have more members than ever before, and monthly memberships across all centres have risen by around 18% compared to the previous year.

In November 2023, CSAC opened its refurbished gym and introduced an extended studio timetable. Both have been a hit with new and existing customers, encouraging sporadic users to invest in their health and wellbeing by committing to monthly memberships.

But it was Riverside that secured the most monthly memberships last year, with an impressive 5,172 members currently signed up. The centre had over 1.1 million visits in total, with Chelmsford residents making the most of the accessible swim facilities, ice rink, gym, sports hall, and fitness classes.

Of course, you don’t have to be a member; you can “pay and play” whenever you wish and will benefit from the same great facilities and customer service.

Fantastic customer service scores

Chelmsford City Council leisure centres use the Net Promoter Score system (NPS); a market research metric that is widely used in the leisure industry to monitor customer experience and satisfaction.

A venue’s NPS can range from -100 to +100, with the national average being +40. Last year, Chelmsford’s community leisure centres had an average score of +57, placing them well above the national average.

Friendly Staff At CSAC
Staff at the centres are friendly and knowledgeable.

Sarah Smith, the leisure centres’ general manager, says it’s great to see so many people in Chelmsford getting active:

“We’re absolutely thrilled to be welcoming more visitors than ever to our leisure centres. We’ve seen some fantastic developments in our centres, staff, and offering over recent months, and it’s rewarding to watch that benefit our members and customers.

“I’m particularly pleased that Riverside has achieved its highest-ever membership just in time to mark the five-year anniversary of our re-opening! We have loads of great celebratory classes and activities lined up, to inspire and thank our members, so keep an eye out for those!

“We’ve also seen attendance increase for our various accessible sessions and substantial growth in our Active Health programme – the number of people using these services really highlights the importance of community leisure centres and the benefits they bring to the public.”

Sarah Smith, Leisure Centres Manager, Chelmsford City Council

Activities for all ages and abilities

A number of accessible sessions are available at Riverside, CSAC, and South Woodham Ferrers (SWFLC).

Riverside Leisure Centre hosts the award-winning Sport for Confidence scheme, with six sessions per week that allow everyone to take part in sport or physical activity, no matter what barriers they might face.

CSAC hosts a Families in Focus activity club, providing a range of play activities for children with special educational needs and disabilities and their siblings (accompanied by parents or carers), and weekly Flyers sessions for physically disabled young people.

SWFLC offers weekly swim sessions for those with accessible needs, which carers can join for free.

Each centre also hosts classes that are part of the council’s Forever Active programme, which are designed for people over 50. Activities range from boccia to dance, and badminton to seated exercise, so there is something for everyone!

Active Health programme gains momentum

The Active Health referral scheme launched in Chelmsford in November 2021, and over the last year it has been a key focus for participating centres, CSAC and Riverside. The programme supports those whose quality of life could be improved by implementing active lifestyle changes, by creating a twelve-week plan tailored to their needs and preferences.

As well as being life-changing for those taking part, the scheme aims to relieve some strain on the NHS, by reducing the likelihood of participants developing more serious illnesses and eliminating their need for long term prescriptions. In the last year, 455 Chelmsford residents were referred to Active Health by their GP, health professional, or social prescriber.

Of those who completed their twelve-week personalised plan, 73% went on to sign up for a monthly membership, so they could continue with their progress. Common results seen in participants include:

  • Blood pressure reduction (average pre-Active Health: 137/90 mmHg, average post-Active Health 132/88 mmHg)
  • BMI reduction (average pre-Active Health BMI: 34, average post-Active Health BMI: 32)
  • Reduction in unscheduled healthcare visits
  • Fewer aches and pains
  • Improved energy, positivity, and mental health

Nora, an Active Health participant, says the scheme is a great for those who don’t know where to start at the gym:

“On my own, I was unsure what I needed to do in the gym to work with and improve my specific health condition. Active Health to the rescue! The programme was perfect – challenging but manageable. The independent training, between reviews with the instructor, set a pattern that means I feel confident going forward on my own.

“I would highly recommend the program to anyone with a medical condition that would benefit from physical activity. The 3 months of support and advice, coupled with a willingness to get yourself to the gym and work through your programme, will set you on the road to a positive lifestyle change.”

Nora, Active Health graduate, Riverside Leisure Centre

Andrea says participating has shown her that it’s never too late to start looking after your health:

“I was referred by my doctor to the Active Health programme as my underlying medical conditions were deteriorating due to my sedentary lifestyle.

“Under the careful supervision of the Active Health team I was given a tailored programme to help build up my strength and fitness. I lost several kilos and reduced my body fat, and I am no longer pre-diabetic.

“I now go to the gym at least 5 times a week and participate in a number of activities. The program is a great to kick start improving your fitness. It’s never too late to start.”

Andrea, Active Health graduate, Riverside Leisure Centre

Step into action!

If you feel inspired to get moving, you can book a free trail at any of our leisure centres online, as part of the #StepIntoSummer campaign. Visit the Chelmsford City Sports website to learn more.

But you don’t need to be a member to enjoy the facilities! You can test the waters by swimming, skating, stretching, or playing at CSAC, Dovedale, Riverside, or SWFLC with a free ourChelmsford account. Sign up now!

Riverside Step Into Summer 1200 X 800 Px

You can learn more about the facilities and classes at each of our centres by visiting chelmsford.gov.uk/leisure-centres/

To learn more about Active Health and how to request a referral, visit chelmsford.gov.uk/active-health/

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Molly Smith
Molly Smith

Molly writes stories about public health, community safety, leisure, community sport, parking and Chelmsford Market.