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23 Dec 2021
COVID-19 risk in European fitness clubs remains 'extremely low'
By Tom Walker
COVID-19 risk in European fitness clubs remains 'extremely low'
The number of positive cases recorded from 185 million health club visits was 1,614
Photo: Shutterstock/ESB Professional
The number of positive COVID-19 cases among people who have visited health clubs across Europe continues to be at "extremely low levels".

Data from the second Safe Active report from Europe Active, covering 185 million visits across the continent, shows an overall rate of 0.87 cases per 100,000 visits, proving that health clubs and gyms are some of the safest places for people to spend time.

The total number of positive cases recorded in people who represented 185 million attendances, plus staff, was 1,614.

This number does not indicate that transmission happened in gyms and health clubs, it is simply the number of people who went on to have COVID-19 having been to a gym or health club. They could have contracted it anywhere.

Published by Europe Active in partnership with King Juan Carlos University, AWRC-Sheffield Hallam University and UK Active’s Research Institute, the report collects health club visitor data from Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

Professor Rob Copeland, director of AWRC-Sheffield Hallam University, said: "The second Safe Active report presents important data on the contribution that the fitness and leisure sector has made to supporting health and wellbeing throughout the pandemic.

"As COVID-19 continues to cast a shadow over society, this report provides compelling evidence in support of prioritising physical activity in national policy and ensuring that facilities remain open to help sustain the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals and communities”.

Professor Alfonso Jimenez, head of Think Active – Europe Active's Research Centre – added: "Data provided by club operators suggest that fitness clubs and leisure centres, where industry standard mitigation is in place, continue to provide safe public spaces in which to exercise, with very low self-reported cases of COVID-19.

"We employed robust data collection methods and our findings are consistent with findings from public health sources”.

To access the full report, click here.

BACKGROUND – UK ACTIVE COVID REPORT
NB, UK Active numbers are included in the Europe Active report.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases among people who have visited health clubs, leisure centres and swimming pools in the UK continues to be at "extremely low levels".

Figures published by UK Active – covering the period since gyms reopened (12 April 2021) to 21 November 2021 – show an overall rate of 0.83 cases per 100,000 visits.

Since restrictions were eased in April, the UK Active Research Institute has continued to collect data on a weekly basis from more than 1,500 facilities across the UK, representing more than 125 million visits from April to November 2021.

Supported by UK Active’s ‘Fit Together’ campaign, operators have committed to maintaining high safety standards after government restrictions were relaxed, as part of efforts to help reassure employees and the public that their facilities are a safe place to work – and to work out.

The results show that while the case rate for the UK’s general population has fluctuated over the time period, the prevalence of the virus has remained "extremely low" in the UK fitness and leisure sector.

In terms of the overall rate measured across the whole period since the sector’s first reopening in 2020, data from 25 July 2020 to 21 November 2021 shows that facilities in the UK have seen more than 160 million visits, with an overall rate of 1.6 cases per 100,000 visits.

The data collected by UK Active covers a mixture of facility types including health clubs, gyms, leisure centres and boutique fitness studios, as well as different operating models, including private multi-site chains, public leisure trusts and independent operators and studios.

Huw Edwards, CEO of UK Active, said: “The fitness and leisure sector has gone above and beyond in its dedication to customer and staff safety, with laser-focused attention to high standards of cleanliness, and this is seen once again in the safety data we are publishing today, which shows tens of millions of people using these facilities each week, confident in their safety.

“Furthermore, the nation’s gyms, pools, leisure centres and studios are essential for helping people to recover from the pandemic both mentally and physically, and the Government will require our sector’s support more than ever in the coming months as we look to turn around the decline in our activity levels that worsened as a result of the pandemic.”

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