Gyms in England reopen today - but how will they be different?

23 July 2020, 13:15

File photo: A general view of Oasis Gym as Gyms and leisure centres in the UK prepare for reopening on Saturday
File photo: A general view of Oasis Gym as Gyms and leisure centres in the UK prepare for reopening on Saturday. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Indoor gyms in England are set to reopen today for the first time since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

Leisure centres and indoor pools will open their doors with social distancing measures and extra cleaning regimes in place.

But how will they be different and what will customers need to do to ensure they stay safe?

What new safety measures are in place?

Numbers will be limited to ensure that each person has at least nine square metres.

Cleaning equipment must provided to wipe down every machine after use. Items which are shared such as weights, balls and exercise mats must be cleaned after each use, or they will be banned.

Treadmills and other exercise equipment may be separated by Perspex screens. People will be encouraged to arrive in their gym clothes and to shower at home instead of at the gym.

Will masks be worn?

When announcing the decision for gyms to reopen, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said they would not be compulsory.

"We have not taken a decision to require the wearing of face masks in respect of gyms," he said.

Mr Dowden said the Government's approach to face coverings was "context specific" and endorsed by scientific advisers.

It was a "proportionate approach whereby wearing masks is one way of mitigating risks but it sits alongside a whole suite of other things", including washing hands and social distancing.

What do gym bosses say?

Gym chiefs had previously criticised the decision to keep gyms closed and said letting pubs and restaurants reopen while keeping exercise facilities closed could lead to people becoming more at risk of Covid-19.

Glenn Earlam, chief executive of David Lloyd Clubs, said it was a “completely illogical” move.

He said: “So what we hear is that pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen, but health and fitness facilities won’t be able to. To us this is bizarre because we are part of the solution.

“If people come to health and fitness facilities it helps boost their immune system, the chief medical officer has regularly said that health and fitness is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself from Covid-19.”

PureGym, one of the UK’s largest operators with more than one million members, said in a statement: “We understand that these decisions are not easy, but it is a strange ‘war on obesity’ that sees pubs and restaurants open before gyms.

“Our facilities are, on average, the size of five or six doubles tennis courts and are exceptionally well ventilated, enabling people to work and exercise safely and securely.”