Gyms and recreation centers should be kept open because they pose an extremely low risk of spreading the coronavirus and promote the health and well-being of communities, researchers said.
Analysis of more than 62 million gym visits in 14 European countries since September revealed that only 487 infections had been reported by operators – the equivalent of just 0.78 cases per 100,000 visits.
The Sheffield Hallam University academics who conducted the study said the numbers reveal the ‘vital’ role fitness centers play in ensuring that ‘our communities are supported and have the opportunity to stay active’.
The UK government’s Tier 3 restrictions – the strictest lockdown measure in England – officially order the closure of gyms and recreation centers to stop the spread of the virus.
But Liverpool and Lancashire have successfully fought their way out of this rule after claiming that fitness centers are vital to their communities.
Public Health England does not provide statistics on coronavirus outbreaks in gyms, but groups them in the ‘other’ category – which is responsible for about 9 percent of all recorded outbreaks.
Academics have called for gyms, leisure and fitness centers to remain open during the coronavirus crisis – they say they improve well-being in the community
Liverpool gyms win as government withdraws
The government pushed for gyms to be closed in Liverpool, despite the area’s closure last week.
City region mayor Steve Rotheram said they would be allowed to reopen under Tier 3 restrictions.
He asked for scientific evidence as to why they were ordered to close after the announcement that those in Lancashire would remain open.
Thea Holden, the co-owner of EmpoweredFit, an independent gym in the city that stayed open during the restrictions, said she was “over the moon.”
Meanwhile, Nick Whitcombe of Bodytech Fitness in Moreton posted an emotional video to his Instagram, claiming, “We saved our industry.”
The SafeACTiVE study was conducted by Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Center (AWRC), next to King Juan Carlos University in Madrid, Spain.
Professor Rob Copeland, director of the AWRC, said: ‘Data from the SafeACTiVE study shows that gyms across the EU are safe places to exercise.
“Preventing the further spread of Covid-19 should be our primary goal, but we also need to ensure that our communities are supported and have the opportunity to stay active.
“We know that being physically fit can reduce the severity of the Covid-19 infection and, moreover, being active can help us deal psychologically with the challenges of a second pandemic wave in Europe.
Keeping recreation centers and fitness clubs open and fully operational is critical to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our communities.
“I would go further and suggest that governments across Europe should think about how we can increase, not reduce, access to activities while learning to live with Covid-19.”
The study was commissioned by EuropeActive – a non-profit organization for the European fitness and exercise industry.
Professor Alfonso Jimenez, Head of THINK Active at EuropeActive, said: ‘I am delighted to confirm such a low risk of infection in fitness and health clubs, reinforcing the message that fitness and physical activity are a fundamental part of the solution during the Covid -19 pandemic in strengthening and improving the immune system and a lower risk of viral diseases. ‘
The full report is expected to be released in November.
Tier Three lockdown officially forces all recreation centers to close. But Lancashire and Liverpool have both negotiated exemptions from this restriction
Infections seemed to be declining for the first time in the UK today as restrictions began to impact Britain’s spiraling second wave
But the number of deaths from the virus is still up 60 percent from last week