Are gyms being unfairly targeted in COVID-19 lockdowns?

Lilla Marshall takes a look at what a new national lockdown will mean for the future of gyms and the wellbeing of the public

Lilla Marshall
4th November 2020
Gyms in Tier 3 areas of England have been forced to close, as part of ongoing local lockdowns. This has been met with controversy, as gym owners feel they are being unfairly targeted while restaurants stay open. With an impending national lockdown, concerns are now rising over what widespread gym closure will mean for physical and mental wellbeing.

There is definitely a risk associated with exercising indoors. Rigorous exercise leads to a quicker and harder breathing rate, which can lead to the further spread of aerosol particles containing the virus. Surfaces within the space are touched by multiple users and while gym users are encouraged to wipe down after they touch something, anecdotal reports suggest that this isn't always happening.

On the week starting 5 October, 3.0% of all positive cases in England had been from people who had previously visited a gym, according to data from Public Health England. For comparison, this is behind the number of people who had visited supermarkets (12.1%), pubs (9.9%), restaurants or cafes (8.5%), secondary schools (5.4%) and primary schools (4.1%). It is important to note that this does not mean the virus was caught at these locations. SAGE estimates that closing gyms would decrease the national R rate by 0.1, which would be crucial in their attempt to bring it back below 1.0.

73% of Brits exercised more frequently during the first national lockdown than they did previously

With a new lockdown fast approaching, there is a worry that closing gyms will have a negative effect on people's mental health. Numerous studies have confirmed that exercise decreases anxiety and depression, while boosting self-esteem and cognition. However, the gym isn't the only way to accomplish this. According to YouGov, 73% of Brits exercised more frequently during the first national lockdown than they did previously - with the most common method being outdoor walking (55%).

The closure of gyms and leisure centres will lead to significant business failure, job losses and adverse impacts on health and wellbeing

Huw Edwards, the chief executive of UK Active, is extremely concerned about the financial effects that closures will have on gyms. He told the BBC: "The reality is the closure of gyms and leisure centres in Liverpool will lead to significant business failure, will lead to job losses and according to a SAGE report released on Monday, will have an adverse impact on the health and wellbeing of people in Liverpool."

Featured Image: Victor Freitas on Unsplash

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