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Health clubs and gyms beating COVID

UK Active has released its final report on COVID-19 cases among health club, leisure centre and swimming pool customers.



The report, called Safe and Essential, covers the last tranche of findings from research that was launched in July 2020 and reported regularly to track the correlation between COVID-19 cases and attendances at health clubs, leisure centres and swimming pools.


All COVID restrictions were lifted in England in February 2022, marking the end of the study.


In wrapping up, UK Active said that by working with over 2,000 operators from across the UK, 241,154,977 health club visits were recorded between 25 July 2020 and 27 February 2022.


Among these were 2,605 registered cases of COVID-19, making an overall rate of only 1.08 cases per 100,000 visits.


In addition to this being an exceptionally low figure – especially when set against rates in the general population – there is no evidence that transmission took place in health clubs.


According to UK Active, the data represents the largest and most comprehensive national COVID-19 safety data set in Europe and was one of the key reasons the sector was able to reopen at the earliest possible phase in the government’s roadmap last year, 12 April 2021, ahead of other sectors, having been one of the last to open in prior lockdowns.


UK Active findings from the studies were also incorporated into regular reporting from a pan-European study called Safe Active by Europe Active which is continuing, due to restrictions still being in place in parts of Europe.


In September 2021, UK Active research found that gym-goers were a 160 times less likely to get COVID-19 than non-gym goers.


Huw Edwards, CEO of UK Active, said: “Safe and Essentialshows the power of our sector when it unites, to drive public health outcomes, to improve standards and to lobby collectively for a fitter, stronger nation.


“The UK has set the benchmark for COVID-19 reporting, thanks to the largest sector safety data monitoring operation in Europe, allowing us to analyse more than 240 million visit data points and shine a light publicly and politically on a sector that is both safe and essential.


In terms of how the data was compiled, UK Active received numbers on a weekly basis from operators, with metrics including usage (visits) and officially confirmed COVID-19 cases through NHS Test and Trace or the local authority. Numbers were then validated by the government.


In the report, Edwards credited UK Active’s Fit Together campaign, which launched on 10 June 2020, with helping operators maintain high safety standards, reassuring the government and public that gyms, leisure centres and pools were safe places to be.


He also underlined how important the health and safety sector is for the nation’s health and the “central role” physical activity plays in reducing public health.


“The past two years have been incredibly challenging for our members,” added Edwards, “I want to thank them for their unity, collective evidence and support behind our cause.”


To read ukactive’s report, click here.