Gyms push back against Covid restrictions

Covid-19 restrictions are causing concern amongst gym-goers and owners in Kingston, as the future on whether or not they can remain open looks uncertain. 

As more areas across the UK are declared ‘Tier 3’ under the government’s new plan, only some have so far been forced to shut their gyms. 

Dudley MacDonald, owner of Motion gym in Surbiton, said: “Although gyms are being allowed to remain open in other Tier 3 areas, I doubt this would happen in London.”

PM Boris Johnson announced last week that every area of England would fall into one of three Tiers – medium (Tier 1), high (Tier 2) or very high (Tier 3), each representing a different local rate of infection.  

Under Tier 3 some gyms have been forced shut.

For many, gyms are their place of escape both mentally and physically.

MacDonald said: “A lot of my customers have already said they wouldn’t be able to handle the gym closing again. They are very worried.”

How have gyms changed their systems? 

Gyms have been instructed to change their setups, to ensure they are providing a safe as possible environment for their clients. 

For example at the David Lloyd gym in Kingston, machines are cleaned before and after each use. Masks are to be worn, when not using a machine and in all public places and hand sanitiser is available at every corner. 

The machines are also now set out in a way which ensures all users are two metres away from each other at all times.

David Lloyd has also, like pubs and restaurants, introduced a table service only system in its clubhouse to ensure that social distancing measures are adhered to in their facilities. 

Harry Barnaby, a member of David Lloyd Kingston, said: “I feel completely safe here. Everyone sticks to the guidelines as no-one wants to see the gym being forced shut.”

The same protocols have been implemented, at Motion gym, in Surbiton.

MacDonald said: “The gym is very strict. Everyone has their own space and all equipment is set out for them before every session.”  

Statistics have shown very few Covid-19  transmission rates in gyms in the UK.

UKactive’s most recent study estimated 0.034 positive cases per 100,000 gym visits

UKactive, a not-for-profit body comprised of members and partners from across the UK active lifestyle sector that is committed to getting “more people more active, more often” has found gyms are almost risk-free environments for Covid-19.

Huw Edwards, CEO of UKactive, said: “This shows an extremely low prevalence of Covid-19 among people who visit gyms and leisure facilities.”

Benefits for mental and physical health

Many surveys have indicated that exercise is fundamental to people’s mental health especially during challenging times, such as a global pandemic. 

Mental Health Charity Mind said: “Physical activity releases feel-good hormones that make you feel better in yourself and give you more energy.”

Another benefit of exercise is building up immunity and physical well-being.

Dr James Turner said: “Regular, daily exercise will help better maintain the way the immune system works, not suppress it.” 

Situation in Liverpool

Nick Whitcombe, a gym owner from Liverpool, ignored the restrictions in the face of large financial punishment.

He said: “We are not staying open for financial gain but more for our members mental and physical well-being.”

A petition, created by Liam Brannon, a personal trainer from Liverpool, called for the government not to close gyms despite a rise in Covid-19 cases, arguing that gyms were already following strict guidelines.

The petition has reached nearly 400,000 signatures, which means it passes the threshold to be considered for debate in parliament and eliciting a response from the government. 

Liverpool city metro mayor Steve Rotheram strongly criticised the government for forcing gyms to shut in Liverpool but allowing them to reopen in Lancashire after they were also classified ,as a high-risk area. 

Rotherham and the region’s six council leaders demanded an urgent review of the decision.

A matter of days later, after the government failed to provide evidence that gyms should in fact close, the treadmills are back on.

Rotheram told BBC Radio Merseyside: “The government have agreed with the case I put forward on behalf of city region leaders and that they would now bring us in line with other Tier 3 areas.” 

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