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Health clubs reopen in England as report shows 40,000 COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented in the UK with greater health equality

By Tom Walker    12 Apr 2021
It is the first time English health clubs have allowed to receive customers in 114 days / Shutterstock/Cultura Motion

Health clubs, leisure centres and studios in England have opened today (12 April) for the first time during 2021.

Some opened their doors to exercisers at midnight, celebrating the return of customers and members.

It's the first time English health clubs have allowed to receive customers in 114 days and the third post-lockdown reopening since the pandemic began, following those in July and December 2020.

Liz Terry, editor of HCM said: "The very best of luck to everyone reopening today – it's a momentous day for the sector and a day for excitement, joy and celebration, coupled with a laser focus on excellent operating practices to keep everyone safe.

"Industry research carried out by ukactive – which has been validated by the government – proves gyms are regulated, COVID-secure environments and so our members can be confident that going to the gym will not only ensure they improve their fitness, health and resilience but also that they're safer from the virus than they are almost anywhere else.

"The work of the sector has never been more important, as demonstrated by the new longevity report, Levelling up Health, which was published last week and shows the pandemic has exposed huge health inequalities in society in the UK, with 90 per cent of those who've died with COVID-19 having significant prior poor health.

"Shockingly, the report shows there would have been 40,000 fewer deaths in the UK to date if the national COVID mortality rate had been as low as the least deprived places in the UK and the health and fitness sector must do everything it can to help address these devastating health inequalities."

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “The reopening of gyms, pools and leisure facilities is vital for our nation’s physical and mental recovery after such a challenging year.

“These places play such an important role in our nation’s social fabric and in supporting the NHS, providing an essential service for millions of people, across every community.

“The fitness and leisure sector has proven safety measures in place so people can feel safe and confident as they enjoy their favourite activities again.

"Our members can’t wait to welcome visitors back and to see the smiles returning to faces after a great workout or swim.”

While health clubs are allowed to reopen in England, group exercise will not be permitted until 17 May. The decision has been described as "defying logic" and as one that "isn't based on science", according to leading operators.

To read more on the industry's views on this delay – including contributions from Glenn Earlam, David Lloyd CEO, Ed Sanbury, CEO of Blok and Ben Beevers, group development director at Everyone Active – click here for HCM Issue 3 2021.

In Wales, fitness operators and leisure centres will have to wait for another four weeks until they can reopen, due to the Welsh government's decision to delay the lifting of restrictions until 3 May.

The Welsh government's approach to physical activity facilities has caused anger and dismay among both the public and operators.

On 10 April, around 300 people gathered to protest in capital city Cardiff, calling for gyms to be able to reopen sooner.

Operators have also vowed to press on with a legal challenge to get health clubs to open sooner.

Gyms in Scotland are due to re-open on 26 April, while there has been no announcement when they'll be back in Northern Ireland – although 26 April has been mooted as a possible date.

Meanwhile, in England, a number of fitness operators have launched marketing campaigns to celebrate reopening – and to highlight that facilities are open to the public.

These include boutique operator Gymbox, which has introduced London's "first rickshaw service for gym-goers" – designed to carry exercisers' "exhausted bodies home" after their first intense workout in a proper gym for months.

PureGym, meanwhile, has announced it will open 10 brand new health clubs this week, alongside its existing 230 sites.

The 10 new clubs will be launched at various stages during "reopening week".

Click here to read how Philip Mills, executive director of Les Mills, thinks how consumers can't wait to get back to the gym, with digital acting as a funnel for new members

The reopening has seen some operators launch marketing campaigns – such as Gymbox, which is taking people home in rickshaws / Gymbox
It is the first time English health clubs have allowed to receive customers in 114 days / Shutterstock/Kues
ukactive  gyms  health clubs  fitness  PureGym  Gymbox  Huw Edwards 
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