Gyms reopening underlines role in health of millions – industry

Josie Clarke, PA Consumer Affairs Correspondent
·3-min read

The decision to allow gyms and other indoor leisure facilities to reopen at the earliest possible opportunity underlines the role they play in the physical and mental health of millions, industry bosses have said.

As of April 12, people can use indoor fitness facilities, including indoor pools, alone or within a household group.

Steam rooms and saunas will not be allowed to open until step three, which can start no earlier than May 17.

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Huw Edwards, chief executive of trade organisation ukactive, said: “Gyms, pools and leisure centres have proven safety measures in place and they are looking forward to welcoming back members and visitors from Monday, bringing a long-awaited boost to communities across the country.

“The decision to reopen fitness and leisure facilities in the earliest stage possible for indoor venues underlines the role they play in our nation’s social fabric and in supporting the NHS, providing an essential service for the mental and physical health of millions.”

There are some 7,200 fitness and leisure facilities across the UK, serving 17 million users and employing 189,000 people.

Ukactive estimates there have been 700 million lost visits to facilities since the first lockdown on March 23 last year.

A survey by Leisure-net of 33,000 gym members found 69% were “extremely confident” in the safety measures after returning to their centre or club after the first lockdown and 90% said they would use their club more or the same when it reopens, up from 88% last June.

More than three quarters (76%) said they intended to return to their club immediately.

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Ukactive said data from 2,000 operators suggested the prevalence of the virus among visitors who had used facilities remained “extremely low”, at an overall rate of 1.7 cases per 100,000 visits, measured from 75 million visits across the UK between July 25 to December 27.

Polling by ukactive and ComRes suggested 42% of UK adults were sitting for at least 14 hours longer per week during lockdown.

A survey by ukactive of its members showed approximately 400 facilities had already been lost during the crisis, while lockdown had resulted in £90 million in lost membership fees each week.

January is normally a key period for new joiners and renewals and usually sees 30% growth.

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Rebecca Passmore, UK managing director of PureGym, which is opening 10 new facilities in England alongside the reopening of its 230 sites, said: “After 14 weeks of closure we are absolutely thrilled to be opening up our gyms in England on Monday and expect approaching one million workouts over the course of next week.

“The lockdown has been incredibly tough both for our members and the 3,100-strong PureGym team.

“We know how much our members have missed the gym these past few months and I know I speak for the whole team in saying we are so excited to be welcoming them back.

“For millions of people going to the gym is an essential part of their daily health and wellbeing routine, and we are committed to ensuring it is a safe and enjoyable experience, enabling people to be fitter, healthier and happier.”