The fitness sector has said the restarting of indoor exercise classes and organised sport is a “vital” step forward for millions of people.
In England, indoor group exercise and indoor organised sport will be safe to reopen on Monday (17 May) under the latest phase of the roadmap out of lockdown.
Industry association, ukactive, welcomed the return as a boost to both physical and mental health.
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Chief executive of ukactive Huw Edwards said: “Group exercise classes and indoor sports are loved by millions of people across the UK so it’s great to see them start to return.
“Through these popular community activities, our members have become the engine room of physical activity in our nations, making their reopening a vital moment for our physical and mental recovery.”
Group exercise also plays an important role in supporting older adults requiring strength classes to help prevent falls, cancer patients needing rehabilitation services and those using weight management programmes.
During the pandemic, financial pressures resulted in the loss of around 400 gyms, pools and leisure facilities across the UK, with thousands more remaining under threat, ukactive said.
In some cases, facilities were unable to reopen due to restrictions such as reduced capacity, which made them financial unsustainable in the short term.
Mr Edwards said help was still needed to support the industry.
“Our sector still needs support and we will continue to fight hard for the financial and regulatory help which is urgently required so that as many facilities as possible are able to survive and recover fully,” he said.
“Our members have shown tremendous courage and resilience in the harshest of environments, having to make tough operational decisions while facing no income during this period of lockdown. It’s time to support these vital facilities to play their fullest role in our nation’s health and wellbeing.”
On Thursday, ukactive chairwoman Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging the Government to extend the National Leisure Recovery Fund for public operators, and introduce VAT relief for the private sector in line with other sectors.
PureGym opened 10 new facilities in England last month alongside the reopening of its 230 sites. It said that last month, in the first week of re-opening in England, they had “one million workouts”.
It added: “We expect to see around 165,000 members participating in 11,000 classes in England, Wales and Scotland this week.
“Our booking systems show that we have had more than 76,000 class bookings for the week commencing May 17 which proves how excited members are to get back into classes.”
Sandy Macaskill, co-founder of Barry’s Bootcamp, said while instructors and clients were all “hugely excited” it was “tinged with frustration as to why we haven’t been able to start before now”.
Mr Macaskill said: “In terms of preparation, we were doing almost all of this anyway, which is part of our frustration at having to stay closed for so long.”
Providers must follow Government-approved safety guidelines on sanitation, ventilation and social distancing to ensure participants can return safely and confidently.
Alongside group activities, saunas and steam rooms within spas and indoor leisure facilities and children’s play areas can also reopen.
In Wales, group activities reopened on May 3, restricted to 15 people per class, but will be extended to 30 people from May 17.
In Northern Ireland, operators have been given an indicative date of May 24 for indoor group exercise and organised sport to reopen.