A body representing doctors has urged parties to consider offering free gym memberships to young people in the most deprived areas to improve health and wellbeing.
In its manifesto ahead of May’s Holyrood elections, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh called for political parties to consider the policy, which it says could cost £26.4m per year.
However, the cost could be reduced if agreements are struck with local councils to reduce membership fees.
The college says people between the age of 16 and 24 in the most deprived areas of Scotland have been hit hard by the pandemic and may struggle to pay for a membership, which could impact on their health.
Acting president, professor Angela Thomas, said: “As we begin to think about the post-Covid recovery of health services, we must consider new ways to improve the health of the nation.
“One of the ways to improve health is through exercise, with an awareness of the economic barriers that people often experience.
“We know that exercise can improve not only physical health, but mental health too.”
She added: “While it is of course vital that we encourage appropriate forms of exercise among all age groups, we note that the 16-24 year old demographic is least likely to be able to afford a gym membership – particularly those living in the poorest communities and who are unemployed or on low pay.
“Our analysis estimates that providing 16-24-year-olds in the poorest communities with a free gym membership could cost up to £26.4m – and that’s assuming that everyone takes up the offer.
“The reality is that the cost could be less, particularly if the next Scottish Government resolved to working with local authorities to provide free gym access.
“We believe that for political parties to include this in their manifestos, ahead of the Scottish Parliament election in May, would present a new way of establishing a healthier lifestyle for young people.”