Sports Centres and Health Clubs
The National Sports Centre (N.S.C) at Crystal Palace, south London, was the United Kingdom's first purpose-built sports centre. It opened in 1964 in Crystal Palace Park, and was designed by the London County Council's Architects Department under Leslie Martin and Hubert Bennett. The N.S.C. is now a Grade II* listed building, and continues to provide sports facilities for Londoners.
The N.S.C. is one of five such centres across the country, and is managed on behalf of Sport England. The athletics stadium incorporates a 400-metre, eight-lane running track that has hosted international athletics meetings and an annual event on the athletics Grand Prix circuit.
The Jubilee Stand, which could accommodate an additional 5,000 spectators, opened in 1977. The stadium has a capacity of 16,500, which can be increased to 20,000 using temporary seating.
There are outdoor pitches for football, rugby and American football. The complex also contains four swimming pools, and in 2006 included London's only Olympic-sized (50-metre) pool.
Other features include an indoor athletics track; jump and pole vault facilities; badminton, basketball and netball courts; indoor areas for cricket and hockey; martial arts and boxing facilities; weight training rooms; a dance studio, and a climbing wall. The N.S.C. also houses one of the United Kingdom's leading sports injury clinics, employing specialists in orthopaedics, rheumatology, cardiology, thoracic medicine, nutrition, physiotherapy and podiatry.
Since Crystal Palace National Sports Centre opened, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of similar sports centres and health clubs being established in London. The leisure industry, including health, fitness, sports and recreation, is a high-growth area, and employed 13.5% of the United Kingdom's working population in 2006.
There are two main reasons for this phenomenal growth in the late 20th century. First, people's awareness of health issues has increased, and with it the demand for better facilities and spaces for exercise. Second, as lifestyles have become more sedentary, the need for convenient places to exercise has become a more pressing.
There are a number of private health clubs that operate in London and across the United Kingdom. These include Fitness First, with 150 clubs, David Lloyd Leisure, Esporta, Holmes Place and Living Well. In addition, many London boroughs run public leisure centres.
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