running exercise fitness health

Junk food and unhealthy drinks are set to be banned at more than 3,000 gyms and leisure centres in a public sector crackdown, following the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan.

Ukactive, the not-for-profit umbrella body for a huge swathe of centres, said it was also planning to make the price of healthy food such as fruit cheaper and introduce local sugar taxes under the plans.

Industry sources said the moves would have a “huge impact” on sales to gyms and sports centres for cafés and vending machines.

Ukactive said it was committed to making leisure venues compliant with Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services, which carry requirements such as ensuring portions of fruit are cheaper than a hot or cold dessert.

It also requires a mandatory reduction in products high in salt, saturated fat and sugar and the promotion of greater consumption of fruit, vegetables, fibre and oily fish.

Ukactive said the plans being rolled out would include savoury snacks only being available in packet sizes of 30g or less, confectionery and packet sweet snacks only in the smallest standard single-serve portion size available within the market and not to exceed 250kcal, and all sugar-sweetened drinks to come in packs of no more than 330ml.

Under the plans, no more than 20% of beverages will be sugar-sweetened and no less than 80% of beverages will be low calorie/no added sugar beverages (including fruit juice and water), it said.

Operators at local level look set to go even further with leisure centres in Sheffield already bringing in a tax on sugar-added drinks for sale.

A senior industry source said the moves on public sector procurement was making a much bigger impact on the industry so far than the other measures under the Obesity Plan.

“This is going to have a massive impact on anyone supplying those gyms and leisure centres. It is really big stuff going on.”

“Obesity and physical inactivity are two of the most important public health challenges facing this country. Councils are playing a key role in helping people to eat better, by developing healthy catering policies,” said Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board,

“To tackle obesity we need to help people to change their diet, and this is an important step in that direction.”

Ukactive executive director Steven Ward said: “It’s vital that our leisure centres are fully set up to facilitate healthy lifestyles by providing both physical activity options and nutritious food choices. By setting its own high standards, the leisure sector will be in a stronger position to work ever more closely with GPs and health professionals to serve as a frontline delivery partner for exercise referrals and behaviour interventions.”