Coronavirus in Scotland: Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh calls for the Scottish Government to give deprived young people free gym memberships

Young people from deprived communities should be offered free gym memberships to improve health and well-being, Scottish doctors have said.

The Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh (RCP Edinburgh) is calling on the next Scottish Government to trial the policy for 16 to 24 year olds living in the most deprived areas in Scotland.

The body says that the pandemic has significantly impacted young people from deprived areas and so they hope the free membership would give this group the ‘focus’ they need.

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RCP Edinburgh are encouraging political parties to include this policy in their manifestos, ahead of the Scottish Parliament election in May.

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh has said young people from deprived areas should be given free gym memberships after being impacted by the pandemic (Photo: Lisa Ferguson).

Speaking to BBC Good Morning Scotland this morning, Angela Thomas, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh said: “We know that the group of young people aged 16 to 24 have been particularly affected by certain aspects of Covid-19.

“One reason is that obviously their social life and not getting out to meet each other, but more particularly in terms of jobs, three in five job losses have been amongst the population of 16 to 24.

“So this group of people who are active have now been stuck inside, often unemployed, and so by offering gym membership it will give them a focus to get up and get out there and help keep them healthier.”

The membership for those in poorer communities in Scotland where perhaps there is no garden space or there are fewer green spaces gives young people a place where they can got to meet friends and new people, according to the RCP Edinburgh.

The gym membership scheme could cost £26.4m per year, however this could be reduced if the Scottish Government worked alongside local leisure centres, according to RCP Edinburgh.

If implemented, the policy would cover approximately 55,000 young people, according to National Records of Scotland statistics.

If successful, the College says the ‘pilot project’ should be extended to include other young people.

Speaking about the impact exercise has on mental health, Professor Thomas said: “Not only does exercise help reduce anxiety and depression which has overtaken many people during this pandemic, but it also gives people some head space and allows people to set themselves goals and actually have achievements which will improve mental health.”

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