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Work Out to Help Out

There’s never been a more important time for us all to be focused on lobbying, as the industry fights for its work and potential to be recognised and supported

by Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 1
Time to get back to exercise and get fit to fight COVID / photo: Eldar Nurkovic
Time to get back to exercise and get fit to fight COVID / photo: Eldar Nurkovic

Losing new year trade as a result of lockdown is a hard blow for the industry and we’re backing ukactive in fighting for sector-specific support, such as VAT relief, to help through this challenging time.

As part of our contribution to this lobbying, HCM has launched a Parliamentary Petition, calling on the UK government to fund a Work Out to Help Out scheme to relaunch the sector when lockdown ends. We’re also calling for gyms to reopen in the first wave, to avoid a repetition of the ‘pubs before gyms’ debacle of 2020.

We hope you’ll sign the petition and urge your members to do the same, so we can show the strength of support for the sector. You can find it at www.HCMmag.com/petition.

Work Out to Help Out would act as a reboot of the traditional new year membership surge, incentivising people to join a gym, club or leisure centre to get fit.

New research from Public Health England shows that 70 per cent of adults ‘want to get healthier’ in 2021, indicating that the scheme would be pushing on an open door.

Operators rely on the new year sign-ups, with up to 30 per cent of new members joining during this period and if we’re unable to claw back this business, it will weaken the sector and reduce exercise options for consumers.

With government support and awareness-raising, we believe Work Out To Help Out would be a turning point for the health of the nation and would set us on the path to recovery after a winter of enforced sedentary behaviour and declining vitality and mental health.

Last year, the government backed the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and spent £.5bn of public money picking up a proportion of people’s restaurant and bar tabs.

We believe the health and fitness sector is equally deserving of support and that using government money to fatten everyone up was not the wisest move, in the middle of a pandemic driven by a virus which preys on people with excess body fat.

We hope this year, the government will back gyms, so we can support people to get fit to fight COVID.

There’s never been a more important time to (re)make the case for putting prevention at the heart of policymaking, as there are daily reminders we’ve lost our way when it comes to health strategy. A study by the University of Cambridge has identified 689 failed policies over a 30 year period in the fight to address the obesity crisis, for example.

We’re trying to vaccinate our way out of this crisis while denying people access to health-giving activity, rather than broadening the approach to utilise the power of prevention.

We must reboot our policies with a focus on helping people to be more healthy, reopening regulated, COVID-secure wellness environments such as gyms and spas and educating people – especially children – in self-care, so we are better-placed to win this battle and the battles to come.

Liz Terry, HCM editor
[email protected]
@elizterry
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