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Health First: Why we need to reopen Fitness ASAP

We are walking into a national disaster for health and fitness.

Gyms being closed is more than just a short-term problem. We will be feeling the effect of this as a nation for years to come. For a month or two, this approach made sense, but 10 months since the first lockdown in the UK, it’s now time to consider the bigger picture, in particular with regards to general health and fitness.

For millions of people, gyms are more than just somewhere to exercise. They’re the “third space”- the place people use to focus on themselves, and to “feel good”. We can’t see the effect of taking this away just yet, but if you fit into this group with millions of others, you will absolutely be feeling it by now. The data only tell’s a part of the story, and for us, getting fitness facilities back open should be a number one priority for the overall health and wellness of our community.

Gym’s and private fitness facilities are still on the government’s “black list” for high risk environments, but for us, this decision needs to change, and our focus now must shift to reopening these facilities as soon as possible, with appropriate adjustments to ensure the benefits of access far outweigh the risks.

In private fitness centre’s such as ours (FX Fitness, Burnley), we can provide a clean, safe, socially distanced and highly regulated environment where people can ensure they are able to include regular exercise for the benefits of physical and mental wellness.

Here’s some reasons why reopening fitness centre’s (which can adhere to agreed safety guidelines) should now be a top priority in the fight for the health and wellness of our community, and country as a whole.

 

Reasons why gym’s and fitness facilities ARE NOT the problem in COVID-19 transmission

 

Stats on Covid transmission rates in gyms vs other areas

A recent study by UK active of over 55 million visits to fitness facilties between July and October 2020 showed an overall case rate of 1.41 cases per 100,000 visits to gyms. This suggests gym’s reopening during the pandemic didn’t place a large additional strain on transmission rates, and may contribute heavily to reducing the burden of non Covid related issues linked with sedentary lifestyles.

 

Level of control over the environment

Fitness facilties, including ours, have extremely high levels of control over their environment, unmatched by the majority of other sectors seen as “lower risk” by the current guidelines. Unlike retail stores, supermarkets, schools, and other sectors, any visit to the gym can be matched with appropriate levels of social distancing throughout (even at greater distances than in most environments if necessary), in addition to cleaning of all equipment before and after use. Rather than a focus on keeping these facilities closed, the focus should now shift to getting together guidelines that can allow facilities to reopen safely.

 

We’ve demonstrated proof of this concept during our brief opportunities to open throughout 2020, with zero COVID-19 transmission recorded from our facility, despite regular visits from members and fully socially distanced personal training sessions going ahead during these periods.

The current decision demonstrates a viewpoint from the government that public health and wellness comes second to economic factors, as people are still regularly attending workplaces with LOWER LEVELS of control of the environment and social distancing capability.

Here’s some reasons why a “hunch” that gym’s aren’t as safe as other environments is simply not enough to justify keeping these facilities closed.

 

 

Reasons why people need these facilities open now more than ever!

 

Exercise and health

Regular exercise has clear benefits to both physical and mental wellbeing that simply cannot be disputed. In fact, a lack of participation in regular exercise is a huge contributing factor in the high rates of obesity and metabolic conditions suffered by huge amounts of people throughout the UK and beyond, in addition to it’s benefits on pain reduction in improving mental health. In addition, these people who are struggling to feature exercise as a regular part of their routine may be higher risk should they catch COVID-19. Lockdown at the early stages (April-May 2020), including closing fitness facilities made complete sense. We didn’t have any data on the risks, and as a short term solution, the benefits outweighed the risks of short term inactivity. However, that is no longer the case. It seems that the risks now far outweigh the benefits of closing fitness facilities for long term public health.

 

Winter months

Adding to this fact is the simple point that during the summer months, outdoor exercise was far more accessible. Summer days allow walking, jogging, and even exercise routines outdoors which are hugely limited by weather conditions (snow, ice, etc) which are highly limited (and overall simply less appealing) than in the summer months. Further to this, Joe Wicks type Youtube workouts may be novel short term, but they have several issues, including space and appropriateness of the exercise type, meaning a huge number of people are simply being given NO OPTION but to avoid exercise due to current guidlelines.

 

Daily habits

We’ve seen first hand that daily habits have changed dramatically for people during lockdown. Stress levels are elevated, exercise is more of a chore, and their nutrition has become much more difficult to be on top of. The additional snacking whilst working from home, the extra few glasses of wine in the evening, and the lack of consistency with meals will all add up and take its toll on health. We may not see the data on this just yet, but I’m sure plenty of people reading will have already seen this shift towards unhealthy habits throughout lockdown.

The solution to this is to have appropriate support to help out. The gym is one of the key places we find that support through qualified and experienced coaches helping us to keep our habits in check. We all know after a holiday or break for Christmas getting back into a healthy lifestyle is hard. Well now imagine how difficult it will be for people to get back into healthy habits after 10 months without gyms. And for many who are “waiting for this to blow over” so they can get back into healthy routines, the effects of unhealthy habits and a lack of exercise may be disastrous.

 

 

Business considerations

As fitness business owners, we know first hand how hard fitness facilities have been hit hard throughout this pandemic. Financially the sector has been devastated over the previous 10 month’s and unfortunately it doesn’t look to be slowing down. We have worked tirelessly to stay in business by adapting our services to be able to provide fully remote personal training without this there would be no question our business after almost a decade would have closed.

Our business has been built around helping people, and there was no way we could leave our clients to deal with these challenges alone throughout the pandemic providing as much support as possible within the guidelines. The community of people that come to FX need help with their fitness journey and we feel that for many of them FX is the perfect place for them to get fit and healthy.

The losses for business’ like FX are in the tens of thousands. At the point gyms reopen we have to try to reengage with clients who didn’t feel home workouts was an option.

I’m sure it’s common knowledge that some small, independent fitness centre’s have decided to ignore the guidelines on closing, and they stand to benefit both financially and with new clients due to ignoring the lockdown rules, and increasing the risks to our community. For us, this is hard to watch, and we urge the government to offer a solution beyond closing all facilities. This may indeed provide the highest risk of all due to the sheer lack of compliance by the smaller facilities as has been seen up to this point.

For us, who has strictly adhered to the rules throughout, It will take us months to rebuild our client base to pre lockdown numbers that we have built up over a ten year period. The finical struggles won’t just stop when we reopen and we will be dealing with this for years to come.

 

 

The solution?

Now is more important than ever to have fitness facilities reopened- more so than almost any other industry sector, as the health of our community should be put first.

Of course there is an element of risk to this, but all things have an element of risk. The question is, do the benefits outweigh the risks? With appropriate guidelines from the government, I think this is a resounding YES to get fitness facilities back open, and put public health back to the MAIN PRIORITY during this pandemic.

 

If you don’t want to wait for facilities to reopen, you can start working with us online today. Contact us HERE.

If you would like some more support, or are wondering where to start, click HERE to check out our recent webinar to see how you can manage lockdown in the best way possible.

 

Josh Kennedy

 

 

 

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