People in West Lothian are desperate to get fit after lockdown and flock to gyms

By Stuart Sommerville

Sport and leisure centres have seen demand soar since the easing of lockdown restrictions, with West Lothian Leisure recording more than 60,000 visits to its venues last month.

Xcite, the West Lothian charity trust which manages sport and leisure centres, golf, outdoor learning and Howden Park Centre, has seen strong demand since the easing of restrictions on 9 August.

While some Covid safety measures remain in place, such as face masks, additional cleaning and enhanced ventilation, venues are gradually returning to full capacity.

Demand for swimming, group fitness and golf have been exceptionally strong. Community access at the eight school sites managed by West Lothian Leisure has also returned .

And in another sign that things are slowly returning to normal the trust reports sell out shows at Howden Park Centre and strong ticket sales for the December pantomime.

It’s good news for the trust which has struggled with its finances through a year of shutdown.

It is now in the middle of a lifesaving restructure plan which has seen some job losses and changes to the way it operates- including the vacation of the Low Port Outdoor Activity centre in Linlithgow earlier this year.

New links with the NHS will also put the trust at the forefront of a holistic approach to exercise and better mental health.

An ongoing challenge, in common with UK employment trends, is staff recruitment - a number of vacancies are listed on its website; however, with the launch of new memberships and new activities planned this month, Xcite is ahead of its goal to get back to pre-Covid levels of business activity by 2023.

Tim Dent, Chief Executive, said: “The recent lockdown has been one of the worst crises to hit the leisure sector in living memory. As a result of our own efforts and the support of others, including West Lothian Council, we have been able to navigate our way through this and deliver safe activities and industry leading customer service.

“Whilst not out of the woods yet, we are in a much better financial position and are delighted to see customer confidence returning and membership numbers increasing.

“It is also great to see sports clubs back in our venues, visits and revenue ahead of forecast and some really healthy, green shoots of recovery. Most importantly our NHS funded, health and well-being programmes such as the GP exercise referral scheme and Ageing Well activities are up and running again - post-Covid these services will be more important than ever.

“We consider all our services to be essential, so it is vital we do our bit to help get West Lothian active again - so that everyone has the opportunity to live a healthier, happier, longer life.”

Councillor Cathy Muldoon added: “It is extremely positive to see that customers are returning to West Lothian Leisure’s facilities.

“In what has been an extremely challenging eighteen months for everyone, it’s important that services can open their doors and allow people to regain some degree of normality, particularly in the leisure and arts sectors that bring huge benefits to people, both physically and mentally.”

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