Keeping gyms and leisure centres open is critical

Gyms ARE Covid-safe: Experts say they pose a low risk of spreading the virus and keeping them open boosts health and wellbeing

  • 487 positive cases were recorded following 62million visits to fitness centres 
  • The study collected data from leisure centres in 14 European countries
  • Academics argued their results revealed that gyms should be kept open 

Gyms and leisure centres should be kept open because they pose an extremely low risk of spreading coronavirus and boost the health and wellbeing of communities, researchers have said. 

Analysis of more than 62million gym visits in 14 European countries since September revealed only 487 infections had been reported by operators — the equivalent of just 0.78 cases per 100,000 visits.

The Sheffield Hallam University academics who conducted the study said the figures reveal the ‘vital’ role of fitness centres in ensuring ‘our communities are supported and have the opportunity to remain active’.

The UK Government’s Tier Three restrictions — the harshest lockdown measure in England —officially order the closure of gyms and leisure centres to curb the spread of the virus.

But Liverpool and Lancashire have successfully wrangled their way out of this rule, after arguing fitness centres are vital for their communities.

Public Health England does not provide statistics on coronavirus outbreaks in gyms specifically, instead grouping them into the ‘other’ category — which is to blame for around 9 per cent of all recorded outbreaks. 

Academics have called for gyms, leisure and fitness centres to be allowed to stay open during the coronavirus crisis – saying they improve wellbeing in the community

Victory for Liverpool’s gyms as Government backs down 

The government backed down on the closing of gyms across Liverpool, despite the area’s lockdown last week.

City Region metro mayor Steve Rotheram said they would be allowed to reopen under Tier 3 restrictions.

He asked for scientific evidence on why they were ordered to shut, following the announcement ones in Lancashire would remain open.

Thea Holden, the co-owner of EmpoweredFit, an independent gym in the city which stayed open during the restrictions, said she was ‘over the moon’.

Meanwhile Nick Whitcombe from Bodytech Fitness in Moreton posted an emotional video on his Instagram, claiming: ‘We’ve saved our sector.’

The SafeACTiVE study was conducted by Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC), alongside King Juan Carlos University in Madrid, Spain.

Director of the AWRC Professor Rob Copeland said: ‘Data from the SafeACTiVE study shows that gyms across the EU are safe places to exercise.

‘The prevention of the further spread of Covid-19 has to be our primary objective but we also need to ensure that our communities are supported and have the opportunity to remain active.

‘We know that being physically fit can help reduce the severity of Covid-19 infection and, moreover, being active can help us cope psychologically when faced with the challenges of a second wave of the pandemic across Europe.

‘Keeping leisure centres and fitness clubs open and fully operational is critical to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our communities.

‘I would go further and suggest that governments across Europe should be thinking about how we can increase access to activity, not reduce it, as we learn to live with Covid-19.’

The research was commissioned by EuropeActive – a non-profit association for the European fitness and physical activity sector.

Professor Alfonso Jimenez, head of THINK Active at EuropeActive, said: ‘I am delighted to confirm such a low level of infection risk in fitness and health clubs, reinforcing the message that fitness and physical activity are a fundamental part of the solution during the Covid-19 pandemic in helping strengthen and improve immune functioning and lower risk of viral illness.’

The full report is expected to be released in November.

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Tier Three lockdown officially forces all leisure centres to close. But Lancashire and Liverpool have both negotiated exemptions from this restriction

Infections appeared to drop for the first time in the UK today as restrictions began to have an impact on Britain’s spiralling second wave

But deaths from the virus still rose by 60 per cent compared to last week

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