Gyms freeze payments and move workouts online after coronavirus closures

By Tom Pilgrim, PA

Gym chains are promising to freeze membership payments and deliver workouts online as centres across the country are forced to close to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Under the new measures announced by the Prime Minister, gyms – alongside pubs, restaurants and other businesses – are expected to shut their doors to customers from Friday night.

Boris Johnson said the country-wide closures will be reviewed on a monthly basis.

Following the announcement, gym companies posted messages on their websites committing to pause members’ payment obligations.

PureGym, one of the UK’s largest operators with 230 premises, told its more than a million members they will not have to pay while gyms are closed.

A message on its website said next week it would be launching “PureGym Home”, bringing workouts, on-demand classes, and ideas for nutrition and well-being, through its app.

When gyms reopen, customers’ first payments will be credited by any outstanding amount from their current monthly subscription, the company said.

Virgin Active also told customers it was automatically freezing membership payments.

Accounts will be credited with any frozen fees already paid as well as any pro-rata memberships fees paid for the period between March 21 and 31.

The company plans to use social media and its website to deliver health advice and home workouts.

Managing director Ashley Aylmer said: “We encourage all of our members to stay fit and healthy during these uncertain times.”

Nuffield Health also said it was freezing fee payments and told customers it would be providing ways to keep them fit and healthy, including through video content on its YouTube channel.

David Lloyd Clubs, The Gym Group, DW Fitness First, Better Leisure Centres and Better Gyms all confirmed a payment freeze for members covering the closure period.

Huw Edwards, CEO of not-for-profit fitness industry body ukactive, said: “Our sector puts the health and well-being of its customers and staff at the heart of its work.

“Following the Prime Minister’s announcement today telling the fitness and leisure sector to close its facilities, we will be working with our members to support them over the coming hours, given the timeline provided.”

He welcomed the Chancellor’s package of financial support for businesses and their staff also announced on Friday, but said there needed to be more clarity around issues of rental payments and overheads for facilities.

Mr Edwards added: “Our members will continue to support their customers even though the physical facilities will be closed – adapting and finding innovative new ways to help people to maintain active lives.

“We will continue to keep our nation healthy and active in the most challenging of times.

“The fitness and leisure sector will reopen its facilities when it is safe to do so, and will do so with increased vigour and the energy that has always been its hallmark.”