Gym bosses urge Government to prioritise sector reopening

Simon Neville, PA City Editor

The bosses of three of the UK’s biggest gym firms have called on the Government to prioritise the reopening of fitness facilities.

Chief executives at The Gym Group, David Lloyd and PureGym have warned that without a planned reopening announced, the nation’s physical and mental health could deteriorate.

UK Active data shared with the Government earlier this week claims that sites are “low risk” for spreading Covid-19 and should be prioritised.

Coronavirus – Mon Aug 31, 2020
Gyms opened during the summer with strict cleaning policies in place (Jane Barlow/PA)

It showed that of the 75 million visits to gyms and leisure centres between the reopening of facilities last July and the third national lockdown at the start of January, only 1,277 Covid-19 cases reported.

By comparison, 2.3 million Covid-19 cases nationally were reported during the same period, with gym users recording an overall rate of 1.7 cases per 100,000 visits.

The case rate rose from 0.1 per 100,000 visits in the week starting July 27 to a high of 4.1 at the end of the October. This had almost halved again by the final week of December, UK Active data showed.

Richard Darwin, chief executive of The Gym Group, said: “The mental health of the nation deteriorates each day that gyms remain closed, at a time when people’s wellbeing has never been more at risk.

“The link between exercise and mental health is well understood – our members rely on working out in our gyms to improve their state of mind.

“Gyms need to reopen as soon as possible for the nation’s physical and mental health.”

Glenn Earlam, chief executive of David Lloyd, added: “It’s vital for the nation’s mental health that gyms are among the first to reopen when lockdown restrictions begin to ease.

“With the pandemic having a considerable negative impact on people’s state of mind, taking regular exercise and producing endorphins has never been more crucial.

“Exercising outdoors has been even tougher during these winter months and the reopening of gyms will help to limit any further negative effects of lockdown on people’s wellbeing.”

And Humphrey Cobbold, chief executive of Pure Gym, added: “We have been going in and out of lockdown for the past year, and the nation’s mental wellbeing has suffered as a result.

“It is difficult for people to exercise outdoors in the cold, dark winter – our gyms allow people to exercise in a safe, supportive environment.

“If we are to play our crucial role in helping prevent a national mental health crisis, we must be allowed to reopen.”

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