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Is the gym on its way out?

Written by Ruby Bennett

Design by Rachel Fitzjohn

The UK went into lockdown in March and since then it’s been a slow process but the UK is steadily opening up again. One industry that was significantly affected was the fitness industry, so when indoor gyms were eventually allowed to open in July, there were a few questions raised about how popular they would actually be. The Gym Group revealed they lost around 1/5 of its members during lockdown and with so many other options out there now is it likely that these members will return?

Whilst some people might not be so interested in going to the gym because of the fear surrounding cleanliness, one of the other reasons might be because of the rise in popularity of home fitness programmes. At the start of lockdown, I like many others I decided this was the ideal time to really get into a consistent fitness routine. And to my surprise, I actually did. I did the daily walks and I downloaded all the apps. And I wasn’t the only one: it’s been estimated that around 76% of Brits took up a new form of exercise during lockdown.

Instagram feeds were flooded with Live workouts and there are also a LOT of apps out there, Shreddy, Tone & Sculpt, Couch 2 5K, the list goes on. And I feel like we all know at least someone who tried the Chloe Ting 2 Week Ab Challenge right? For so many of us they have really made a difference and arguably a lasting one, with Women’s Health reporting that 72% of people are choosing to continue working out at home for the time being.

On the other hand there are a lot of pros to the gyms opening, it’s been more than five months now and for some of us, the resistance bands just aren’t cutting it. It can be difficult to focus at home, the people you live with might get in the way or there just might not be the space – at least at the gym you don’t have to shove the coffee table in corner.

Nevertheless, I’m someone who hasn’t been back, and isn’t really planning to for the moment, so I thought it would be best to ask someone who has more of an insight. I spoke to a friend who works at a newly reopened gym, who told me that: “In general I think people are enjoying being back because it’s a reminder of normality and getting back into a routine”. There is still a lot of social restriction and for a lot of people going to the gym has provided a much needed change of scenery. She also suggested it was the younger generation who were more eager to return , saying that the high percentage of older members who frequent her gym are “a bit more sceptical to come back” on the basis that “it’s been too long that they don’t see the point in coming back”.

There’s no doubt that the gym is a sweaty environment and for anyone who is anxious or has a health condition the changes can be a bit overwhelming. However, it is important not to forget about the workers, the PT’s who have been off work for a long time and who are undoubtedly working incredibly hard to make their members feel safe. There’s the argument that with timed slots, reduced capacities and cleaning stations all over that gyms are actually more hygienic than before.

Yet for those who remain unconvinced, there are plenty of other options out there:

  1. YouTube Channels / Apps – amid the seemingly endless options there’s likely to be one out that is perfect for you.

  2. Ask PT’s if they are offering outdoor sessions- they’ve becoming increasingly popular and it means you can continue to support them and the industry in an environment you feel comfortable in.

  3. Outdoor Classes & Clubs – We could all try tennis or something?

I’m sure I’ll head back to the gym at some point but for the time being it seems I’m not the only one who is happy to find other ways to work out. There has been a big push to get Britain opened up again but there’s nothing more important than looking after yourself and only doing what you’re comfortable with. If you’re not ready to go back to the gym just yet there’s still plenty you can do.

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