The pandemic impacted many businesses, and we've heard much in the media about travel and hospitality. However, one industry has a vital role in recovering the economy and the nation, the fitness and leisure sector.
The government has placed minimal emphasis on the fitness sector or promoting the importance of healthy lifestyle choices in battling the pandemic. Yet, sports and activity play a vital role in children and adults' social and mental well-being.
The mainstream media have virtually ignored James Haskell's advocacy of the "Workout to Help Out" scheme. A scheme that the government refused to support in response to an online petition back in March.
Coaches and Personal Trainers play an essential role in assisting those who have had COVID-19 in their rehabilitation and getting back to normal health.
According to UK Active, over 400 facilities have closed with more than 8000 jobs lost. Those that remain in business are focused on the commercial sustainability of their operations. Many of those 8000 people may never return to the fitness industry.
They highlighted that 1,300 of the 2,727 leisure centres run by local councils and 20% of the UK's swimming pools could permanently close over the next six months unless the government intervenes.
The loss of privately owned and publicly funded facilities will only hinder our recovery to health.
I have spoken to many people still too afraid to return to the gym, despite the rate of infections at gyms being infinitesimally low. In addition, many are now suffering the effects of COVID anxiety syndrome, paranoid about having symptoms.
Dr Robert Sallis, former President of the American College of Sports Medicine, carried out a study published in the British Medical Journal. The results of which demonstrate the importance of physical activity in combating COVID-19. He said, "This is a wake-up call for the importance of healthy lifestyles and especially physical activity." In an interview with the New York Times, he said, "Exercise is medicine that everyone should take — especially in this era of COVID-19." The study found that being sedentary was the most significant risk factor for severe COVID-19 cases, outside of being elderly or an organ recipient.
While people's lifestyle choices are theirs to make freely, those that would like to re-engage in sports and activity fully have still not been able to. Mass participation events like the London Marathon continue to be cancelled or delayed. Sadly some smaller event organisers have gone out of business, never to return. Many participants are hesitant about signing up for fear of losing their entry fee due to late notice cancellations resulting from further restrictions. Studies in Spain and Germany show that transmission from indoor events is very low, surely outdoor sports must therefore be safer?
The government could be encouraging people to get out and get active. Yet, they failed to support the fitness and leisure sector. Before the pandemic, the UK fitness industry grew to above two billion pounds in the years leading up to the pandemic. Yet now forecasts suggest that the industry's value will fall to 1.62 billion pounds in 2021. So not only is there a knock-on effect on people's health but also the national economy.
Rather than fining and arresting gym owners during the pandemic, the government should have been supporting and helping the fitness sector to promote activity and reduce the effect of COVID-19. UK Active chief executive Huw Edwards repeatedly urged the government to follow the science and treat gyms as an essential service. Pleas which