The Rise of Wellness Centres

13 November 2018

As the public shifts towards a more holistic approach to health and a greater emphasis on wellbeing, local authorities are taking note and improving leisure spaces to incorporate the growing desire for lifestyle change. As wellness centres become increasingly common, David Spoors, Associate in our leisure team discusses how design can play a significant role in supporting active lifestyle choices and mental wellbeing.

Wellness isn’t just about physical health, but our mental and social condition too, and in recent years its relationship with architecture has become increasingly apparent, in our workspaces and everyday lives.

Of course, it’s not only the architecture and design of buildings that can have a positive impact on our wellbeing, but the facilities and resources available within them too.

Local authority-operated leisure centres are increasingly recognising the importance of wellness, upgrading facilities to encourage more people to get active. These changes reflect a wider consumer shift towards holistic wellbeing, and our public leisure spaces are starting to boast amenities and resources never seen before.

Wellness for all

Public leisure centres are commonplace in the majority of our towns and cities, but many are dated and often unappealing, resulting in people opting to pay for private gym memberships instead. But we have the opportunity to transform the way these spaces are perceived and ultimately how they’re used, by delivering user-friendly, attractive places to exercise and achieve holistic health.

The £16m Crewe Lifestyle Centre, designed by Pozzoni, is a two-storey community hub that offers much more than a traditional leisure centre. The building brings together a range of services, including wheelchair accessible swimming pools, a sports hall and a state-of-the-art fitness suite. It is also home to a family services centre, a sheltered dementia garden, office space, a café and the town’s new library, all under one roof. The centre has picked up a number of industry awards including Best Public Service Building at the North West Local Authorities Building Control Awards and the Community Benefit accolade at the RICS Awards North West 2017.

Accessibility was integral to the design of Crewe Lifestyle Centre, with wide spaces, level access, colour-coding for individuals with dementia and easy way-finding. The building provides facilities that improve lives physically and mentally, in one convenient space and ensuring community inclusion.

Crewe Lifestyle Centre is situated in the very heart of Crewe, meaning it’s easily accessible to the community via public transport and the local appetite for such a facility is proven by the memberships. Within weeks of the centre opening its doors, membership had tripled compared to the town’s old facility.

Tameside Wellness Centre in Denton, Greater Manchester is another Pozzoni-designed leisure space, which has recently achieved planning approval. The development is part of a £12m investment by Tameside Council and Active Tameside to help raise physical activity in local area.

As well as an eight-lane 25-metre competition standard swimming pool, the £14m building also includes a learner pool, gym, sensory garden and performance space, sauna and bowling area.

The building boasts facilities and resources above and beyond those usually expected in public leisure spaces, designed for a wide variety of individuals and groups, from children and teenagers to the elderly. Again, it’s wellness for the masses.

The NHS is listening

The NHS is also recognising the power of wellbeing alongside local authorities and leisure centre operators. Last year, NHS chiefs also revealed that they had drawn up plans for the inclusion of wellness facilities in hospitals, as part of its New Healthy Towns vision.

'Health campuses' at hospitals would provide patients, as well as the public, access to swimming pools, gym classes and spa treatments.

Though this may seem a strange concept to many, these proposals are about transforming the NHS from a body we turn to in ill health alone, to one which encourages and educates in respect to healthy living, helping us achieve and maintain holistic wellbeing.

By incorporating design which pays attention to mental and physical wellbeing into public buildings, architects and developers can support the NHS and local authorities in moving towards holistic health and a greater consideration of wellbeing. The inclusion of spa and wellness facilities in public leisure centres isn’t a flash gimmick, it’s a smart, preventative measure in tackling the health issues that place so much strain on our services.