We’re missing our gyms more than ever. When will they open, and what will they look like?

Like many of us during lock-down, I’ve been forced to find new ways to stay active at home.

From Zoom yoga and online swing dance to joining the millions tuning into ‘PE with Joe‘ on YouTube, I’ve been surprised at what I can do at home.

And something strange has happened – I haven’t really missed the gym itself. Now this is mainly because it wasn’t really in my pre-pandemic routine to begin with.

But there are plenty who think differently, however.

Missing the gym

Many people in the UK are concerned about when gyms will reopen, with a survey citing it as the activity people were most looking forward to once lock-down restrictions are eased.

When the UK lock-down began in March, there were over ten million people with a membership to one of the country’s 7,000 gyms.

The gym is often much more than a weekly habit. It might be the reason a person got into fitness in the first place, the Zumba class where they made friends, the place that made them feel stronger, healthier and good about themselves.

When you’ve found a type of exercise that works for you, it’s a significant risk to your wellbeing to have it taken away.

To this end, a petition was submitted to the UK parliament, asking for health and leisure centres to be reopened as soon as possible. It has reached over 30,000 signatures.

Image by When will the government reopen gyms and leisure centres?

The new government guidelines for lock-down were unveiled on Sunday 10 May and outlined a phased easing of restrictions around things like shops, time spent outdoors and other services like hairdressers.

But there was no date for the reopening of health and fitness facilities.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, representatives of the industry – which is worth £8 billion a year in the UK – have championed the importance of reopening gyms.

There are benefits for businesses, communities, people’s health and wellbeing, and potentially to fighting the virus itself.

“The evidence suggests that keeping the body fit and healthy could be one of the best things to do to prevent covid-19, but I think gyms and leisure centres are quite far down on the pecking order of opening things up again, which seems pretty counter-intuitive.”

Glenn Earlam, Chief executive of David Lloyd Leisure (DLL),

Cautious optimism for health and fitness industry

This pressure seems to have paid off. In recent weeks, there has been a ‘shift’ in government thinking about the issue.

Huw Edwards, UK Active CEO, said: “The government has said to us nothing before 4 July.

“Our plan is to take government and Public Health England officials out to sites to reassure them that gyms can safely implement social distancing.”

An All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sport also met on 21 May to discuss the impact of covid-19 and the future of the leisure sector.

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What would socially distant gyms look like?

It’s hard to escape the fact that the gyms of the past would present a breeding ground for coronavirus.

People sweating, breathing heavily, sharing lockers, equipment and showers hardly sounds like an ideal environment during a pandemic.

Can there really be a safe way for gyms to reopen?

UK Active seem to think so. The organisation, which advocates for the interests of the health and fitness industry, set out a strategy for the safe reopening of leisure facilities back in April.

This includes measures such as having equipment at least two metres apart, cleaning stations for customers at various ‘touchpoints’, and introducing screens and other social distancing measures at reception.

Plans for sport to return

Countries across Europe are currently outlining plans for the return of group sports, outdoor leisure spaces, and even setting a date for gyms to reopen before the end of summer.

There may yet be cause for optimism for those who’ve grown tired of doing burpees in their living room.

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