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Coronavirus: What to expect as gyms reopen today

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·3-min read
Blurred photo of a gym with people on treadmills
Photo: Getty

Gyms and pools are among the businesses hardest hit by lockdowns, with blanket closures sweeping the fitness industry as the coronavirus set in.

According to research by Hospitality.uk, in 2019, the industry was worth around £5bn , and had grown 20% over the past five years.

Fitness businesses in England have been closed for four months, and finally received the OK to reopen starting today (25 July), after much speculation the government had prioritised other industries such as hospitality.

Pubs were allowed to reopen on 4 July.

Long queues have formed outside gyms and fitness centres across England today as customers clamour to get back.

Fitness centres in Scotland and Wales, however are yet to receive the green light for reopening from the government.

The sector has warned the financial impact of the pandemic means it will struggle and at least a third of public facilities in England are expected to remain shut.

Community Leisure UK, the members' association that specialises in representing charitable leisure and culture trusts across England, Scotland and Wales, estimated that 48% of all public leisure facilities face closure.

As many as 1,300 could disappear by the end of the year, meaning the loss of 58,000 jobs.

Alongside this, according to a report from industry body ukactive, nearly a quarter (23%) of customers cancelled their plans during the pandemic.

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Fitness First boss, Martin Long, said in April that the firm’s income, which totalled around £15m a month pre-pandemic, had fallen to zero, overnight.

“The money isn’t coming in quickly enough,” Long told BBC News referring to loans and support at the time.

“Ultimately, you’ve got to run a business with no income and no visibility of when the income is coming, because you don't know when you're going to reopen.”

The sector has leaned heavily on the government’s job retention scheme to survive.

New measures

Gyms, such as chain Fitness First have brought in new measures to allow them to reopen. These include contactless entry and temperature checks on arrival.

There will be additional hand sanitiser and cleaning stations with anti-bacterial spray and wipes and social distancing measures in place, including limiting the capacity where required and increased cleaning hours for staff.

Fitness First customers will not be required to book a slot, however this will be the case for some other businesses.

Gym classes will operate at a reduced capacity.

PureGym, another fitness chain has issued guidelines on how to clean equipment and will help its members police when to go with an app showing the gym’s capacity and busiest times.

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Many have adjusted their habits during lockdown, investing in expensive home workout equipment or introducing outdoor exercise into their routine.

While gyms struggle, it has been suggested that a healthy lifestyle is key to combatting COVID-19 symptoms.

The government will have to find a way to keep the population healthy and active, as the population receives incentives to keep other sectors, such as the restaurant industry, afloat.