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Very low association found between gyms and COVID-19 during 2020

By Tom Walker    17 Feb 2021
People using gyms reported exceptionally low levels of COVID-19 / Shutterstock/Jacob Lund

Data published today (17 February) shows that for every 100,000 visits to UK gyms and leisure centres during 2020, only 1.7 people went on to test positive for COVID-19.

In addition to this being an exceptionally low figure, there is no evidence that transmission took place in gyms.

Released by industry body, ukactive, the data is based on more than 75 million facility visits across the UK, from the initial reopening of gyms in July 2020 to the end of December 2020, before the third national lockdown began in England at the start of January 2021.

The results show that while the case rate for the UK’s general population rose consistently over the time period, the prevalence of the virus in people using gyms and leisure centres remained extremely low.

According to Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, the data confirms that gyms and leisure centres are safe environments.

“Our sector continues to set the benchmark for responsible safety measures and monitoring of COVID-19," Edwards said.

“Our nation’s gyms, pools and leisure facilities have never been more needed, as our communities try to recover mentally and physically from this terrible pandemic and the effects of lockdown.

“It is vital that our facilities are able to reopen as a priority in any phased approach, as they are desperately needed to support the physical and mental health of millions of people that rely on them to be active.

“The fitness and leisure sector remains confident in the Government-approved safety measures put in place, which will allow visitors to return with confidence, and we continue to work with each nation to support decisions for their reopening roadmaps using the very latest data and evidence from our sector.”

Liz Terry, editor of HCM, said: "Gym users report an exceptionally low prevalence of COVID-19 and it's vital to stress that even where gym users have contracted the virus, there is no evidence whatsoever that transmission occurred in the gym.

"Our gyms and leisure centres are COVID-secure, supervised and regulated environments adhering to strict government safety guidelines. The services they provide enable people to keep themselves healthy and fit, to enable them to fight COVID-19. We urge the government to allow our gyms and leisure centres to reopen as soon as we come out of lockdown, so they can continue their valuable work.

"In addition to being critical for mental and physical health, exercise guards against COVID-19 by encouraging the secretion of the protein EcSOD, which coats the organs and protects against the virus.

"We want the government to launch a new initiative to give the nation a health boost as we come out of this long winter of lockdown – to fund a Work Out to Help Out scheme, to open gyms as soon as possible and to encourage people to recommit to their health.

"Economically, the vitality of our workforce has been massively diminished over the last year. People have not only been de-skilled by furlough, they have in many cases put on weight, lost fitness and energy and become sedentary and experienced a decline in their mental health.

"With Brexit putting additional pressure on the economy, we need to have a fighting-fit workforce to ensure the success of UK plc and a government-backed initiative to get the nation back to fighting fitness is urgently needed."

ukactive  COVID-19  Huw Edwards 
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