Recommendations made in January that two new garden cities be built in southern England to ease the UK’s housing shortage have prompted fierce political debate.

However, politics aside, the chance to build two new cities from scratch represents a once in a lifetime opportunity for the leisure and wellness industries. These could be truly incredible places to live, but we need to be innovative with the model. Things have moved on a long way since the original garden cities, and the Leisure Media team would like to see a new vision: one that has wellness at its very heart (see also Leisure Management 2014 issue 1 p3).

It’s acknowledged that, to combat the UK’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle – an issue mapped out in detail in ukactive’s recent Turning the Tide of Inactivity report (see Health Club Management 2014 issue 3 p28) – we need to inextricably build physical activity into everyday lives. A purpose-built wellness city with places to walk, exercise and spend time outdoors, and with access to great leisure facilities, would enhance residents’ quality of life, lead to better health – and lower healthcare costs – and serve as a shining example for others to follow.

And there are already some great ideas out there from which to draw inspiration, both in the design of buildings and in the outdoor space. Smaller-scale initiatives provide innovative food for thought: labelling public staircases as exercise equipment and advertising the calories their use will burn, for example (see Leisure Management 2014 issue 1 p10), and Sochi’s ‘squat for a free metro ticket’ scheme (see Health Club Management 2014 issue 2 p20).

There’s similar thinking at Technogym’s headquarters in Cesena, Italy, with signs on the lifts urging staff to ‘Take the stairs to burn more calories’. Indeed, the design of this futuristic building has wellness running throughout, from its use of natural light and air to its active meeting places and extensive fitness facilities (see Health Club Management 2013 issue 1 p44).

In the US, Delos has gone a step further in the residential market, developing a holistic Well Building Standard based on seven design categories – including light, fitness, water, nourishment and mind – that impact on 12 aspects of human health such as metabolism, longevity and cognition (see Health Club Management 2014 issue 3 p80).

Also in the US, New York’s Center for Active Design has been set up to encourage greater physical movement for users within buildings; to support a safe, vibrant environment for pedestrians and cyclists, with more inviting streetscapes; and to shape play and activity spaces for people of all ages, interests and abilities (see Health Club Management 2013 issue 10 p17).

In line with this thinking, the Open Streets Project has seen streets across the US temporarily closed for walking, biking and playing (see Health Club Management 2013 issue 9 p20); South American cities such as Bogotá have implemented similar projects. And then there’s the ‘pop-up’ trend, which sees temporary fitness offerings set up in public spaces (see Health Club Management 2013 issue 9 p59).

So the inspiration is out there, from small initiatives to grand design thinking. The challenge now is to put politics aside and bring all this together into an exciting new wellness city concept for the UK.

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