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02 Sep 2021
Link between gym visits and COVID-19 continues to weaken
By Tom Walker
Link between gym visits and COVID-19 continues to weaken
Health clubs, gyms and leisure facilities have continued to follow strict protocols since reopening in April
Photo: Shutterstock/Gorgev
New data from the ukactive Research Institute shows that for every 100,000 visits to UK health clubs and leisure centres between April and August 2021, only one person went on to test positive for COVID-19.

The figure of one positive case per 100,000 visits is 60 per cent lower than the 1.7 cases per 100,000 visits to fitness facilities reported between July 2020 and the end of December 2020.

It's also in dramatic contrast to COVID-19 rates among the general population – as reported by the UK government – of 160.6 cases for every 100,000 people living in the UK during the same period and means that non-gym goers are 160 times more likely to get COVID-19 than gym-goers.

The Institute – which has tracked COVID-19 reporting and health club visits throughout the pandemic – has continued to collect and aggregate data on a weekly basis from more than 1,500 facilities across the UK since facilities reopened in April.

Researchers studied a sample of 77 million visits from April to August.

Importantly, the study tracks how many people who visit a health club also develop COVID-19, it does not indicate that transmission happened during the visit.

Health clubs, gyms and leisure facilities have continued to follow strict protocols to help reduce the spread of the virus, including effective ventilation throughout and comprehensive cleaning protocols.

Gym and leisure centre operators are also well-positioned to capture real-time data effectively, based on membership details held within their databases, as well as recording details for all users, in line with relevant data protection requirements.

This allows for quick and relevant contact tracing if there is a case reported by someone who has visited a facility and then gone on to test positive.

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “Despite the challenges faced during the pandemic, one of our sector’s successes has been its dedication to high standards of safety and care for its customers, staff and community, including the diligent monitoring of any COVID-19 cases reported.

“The latest data collated from our members shows that our sector’s commitment to safety and monitoring remains as strong as ever, ensuring our facilities remain open and accessible in order to play their essential role in our nation’s recovery.

“It has been heartening to see millions of people returning to their local gym, pool or leisure centre with confidence over the summer, demonstrating just how valued these facilities are as part of the fabric of our communities.”

Data from ukactive members will help inform the picture in Europe, feeding into the second THiNK Active study on COVID-19, which is due to be published by Europe Active in September.

Delivering COVID-19 secure operating practices is expensive, however. In the latest issue of HCM magazine, David Lloyd Leisure CEO, Russell Barnes, says it's costing the company £800,000 a month.

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