OLDER people risk missing out on much-needed exercise, it has been warned, after a leisure centre made changes to its group classes programme.

A Tai Chi class for older people at Barton Leisure Centre has been cancelled and others are up for review after new management started at the centre.

Fusion Leisure, which runs all of Oxford’s leisure centres on behalf of Oxford City Council, says the changes are needed because of low attendance but residents have offered to help market the classes or pay higher membership fees to ensure they can continue.

Terry Roper, 69, of Claymond Road, Barton is a regular at the leisure centre and said: “It seems to me that they are targeting the classes older people use with this review.

“It’s such a shame as I know they are valued by local residents as a way of keeping fit and healthy.

“It’s also a chance for people to meet others and stay engaged with the community.

“We waited for years to get a facility like this and we would do anything to save our classes.

“I agree you can’t run things at a loss but they need to be better publicised and we have offered to help.

“I would also pay a few more pounds a month if necessary.”

Barton Leisure Centre was revamped seven years ago when a new gym, refurbished changing rooms and a new reception were added.

This led to a spike in the number of new members signing up.

But competition from low-cost gyms opening in the city is believed to have turned residents away from council facilities.

Linda Smith, the council’s lead for Leisure, Parks & Sport, said that it was up to Fusion to decide which classes are run at the city’s leisure centres, but added she would be raising the concerns at the next meeting.

She said: “It is important that our centres offer something for everybody but I don’t think it is unreasonable to stop a class if it is unpopular.”

Last year figures from the census released by Oxford City Council showed an increase in the number of people saying they felt healthy.

Some 89.6 per cent of people aged 16 to 64 reported their general health as either ‘very good’ or ‘good’ with increases in areas such as Barton and Blackbird Leys.

Mark Munday, divisional business manager for Fusion in Oxford said the centre would reveal its new exercise programme in January and it would feature new classes.

He added: “As with all leisure centres, the class programme is constantly reviewed to ensure that the programme is relevant and in demand in the local community.

“If there is demand for Tai Chi or similar classes there is always the possibility that it could be re-introduced.”