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Petition to open gyms first reaches 170k signatures – being considered for Parliamentary debate

By Tom Walker    10 Feb 2021
The petition also calls for a Work Out to Help Out scheme similar to last summer’s successful scheme in the hospitality sector / Creativity

A Parliamentary Petition calling for gyms to reopen first after the current national lockdown in the UK has passed the 100k signature milestone, which means the motion will be considered for a debate in Parliament.

The petition, which also calls for a Work Out to Help Out scheme, similar to last summer’s successful scheme in the hospitality sector, was started by HCM editor, Liz Terry MBE, and has been backed by a large number of fitness, sport and physical activity operators.

It has now attracted nearly 170k signatures (as of 10 February 2021) and can be signed and shared: by clicking here.

The success of the petition has today resulted in an official government response from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

In its response, the DCMS says:

Sports and leisure facilities are crucial for supporting adults and children to be active.

We will promote exercise throughout the pandemic and encourage the use of sports facilities when they reopen.

Sports and physical activity are incredibly important for our physical and mental health, and are a vital weapon against coronavirus. That’s why we have made sure that people can exercise throughout the national and local tiered restrictions. We will need to raise levels of fitness among the population as we prepare to return to our normal lives, now the vaccination programme has begun.

No government would want to be in a position of needing to close gyms. They give enormous health benefits and are large employers. We could not though allow the healthcare system to be overwhelmed so we were required to introduce the current national lockdown.

The National Restrictions are designed to get the R rate under control through limiting social contact and reducing transmissions. All decisions made by the Government relating to the pandemic and sport, including the closure of gyms, have been based on advice from health and scientific experts.

Government has provided unprecedented support to businesses through tax reliefs, cash grants and employee wage support, which many sport clubs have benefited from.

On top of wider economic support, the Government has announced a £100m support fund for local authority leisure centres to ensure these important facilities remain available once public health restrictions are lifted.

We will continue to work with partners including Sport England and ukactive to open sports facilities as soon as it is safe to do so and to encourage their usage.

On 26 January Sport England published its strategy Uniting the Movement. As well as promoting the importance of physical activity, the strategy focuses on helping grassroots sport facilities to recover from the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Responding, Terry said: "Parliamentary Petition responses were on hold for a while, due to the pandemic, so it's good to see they are now back up and working and for the industry to get this initial positive response from DCMS.

"This petition has seen all parts of the industry – from very large to very small operators and from public and private to voluntary sectors – working flat out to represent the voice of our members and customers.

It's vital we show the government how passionate people are about their gym and sports memberships, about participation and about their own health and self-care.

"With the budget looming on 3 March, we hope the sector will be relentless in keeping on fighting to raise the total on this petition, so those in power hear our voice and respond positively to both our call for gyms to open first and for financial support for a Work Out to Help Out scheme to reboot the health of the nation as we move into the spring.

"Research shows many people have become more sedentary this winter and - in many cases - are suffering from poorer mental health and lack of motivation, meaning the UK's workforce and wider population is not in great shape.

"Our gyms and sports facilities have a vital role to play in reversing this trend and getting the nation back on its feet, healthier and with a more positive mindset, as well as supporting the rehabilitation of post-COVID patients.

"We believe this is something very much worth fighting for and thank you to everyone who's supporting this initiative."


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 again.

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 they're unable to claw back this business, it will weaken the sector and reduce exercise options for consumers.

With government support and awareness-raising, HCM believes 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.

HCM believes 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.

Sign and share the petition: by clicking here.

DCMS  Liz Terry  Petition  physical activity  fitness 
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