We are pleased the UK Parliamentary committee has answered calls to discuss the leisure industry be classed as ‘essential services’. Reopening leisure centres and gyms is essential to stop the decline in people’s activity levels, triggered by lockdown.
Since we reopened in July we have seen a gradual increase week by week in people returning to exercise. In the week before the second lockdown, we welcomed 66,828 individuals to our group exercise classes (GEx) and were running at close to 80% of class capacity. The GEx classes equated to 55,688 hours of physical exercise, or 22,275 individuals getting the NHS-recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week.
These figures were due to the strict Covid-safe measures that we had implemented following the first lockdown, and were also thanks to the support of our members after the successful reopening of our centres.
The winter lockdown will present new challenges and we are concerned at the prospect of decreasing levels of physical activity. Due to reduced daylight hours and less favourable weather, the public will have fewer opportunities to exercise outdoors and may feel it unsafe to do so.
The recent Coronavirus Report by Sport England supports our concerns. During the first lockdown from mid-March to mid-May, the proportion of the population classed as inactive increased by 7.4%, or 3.4 million more inactive adults.
Further evidence showed the main exercise activities in lockdown were walking, running and cycling. This time round, these activities will not be as accessible or safe.
We need to continue supporting the elderly
Our concerns are also informed by levels of inactivity among more vulnerable groups, such as the elderly. In the week before lockdown, 18,124 over-60s members attended our centres and were able to maintain good physical and mental wellbeing.
Sport England’s Coronavirus Report revealed that just a third of over-55s were active from mid-March to mid-May. In addition, the proportion now classified as inactive has risen above 50%. It is vital that we continue to prioritise the health of the nearly 12 million over-65s across the UK.
In the current circumstances where normal routine has been taken away, our centres offer essential access to physical activity and specialised classes for this age category to participate in exercise.
Everyone Active Group Development Director
Read more about our support for keeping the elderly active here.