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ukactive has welcomed the reopening of indoor group exercise and organised indoor sport in England, and indoor group exercise in Scotland, today (17 May), heralding the return of our communities’ favourite activities.

In England, indoor group exercise and organised sport are safe to reopen under the latest phase of the nation’s reopening roadmap today, with providers following Government-approved safety guidelines to ensure participants can return safely and confidently.

Group exercise classes and sports will implement strict safety measures co-developed by ukactive and partners including Sport England, DCMS and SAGE, which includes guidance on regular sanitisation, ventilation and social distancing.

Alongside group activities, saunas and steam rooms within spas and indoor leisure facilities and children’s play areas can also reopen.

In Wales, group activities reopened on 3 May, restricted to 15 people per class, but will be extended to 30 people from today.

In Northern Ireland, operators have been given an indicative date of 24 May for indoor group exercise and organised sport to reopen.

The reopening marks a major milestone for gyms, leisure centres, pools and boutique studios as millions of people use fitness classes to support their physical and mental wellbeing,

Group exercise also plays an important role in supporting older adults requiring strength classes which help prevent falls; cancer patients requiring prehab and rehab services; and those requiring weight management programmes.

Sport England’s recent Active Lives Survey showed that more than seven million people in England were using fitness classes regularly pre-pandemic.  Group exercise classes are particularly popular among women, with 76% of participants being female.

Thousands of ukactive’s members have group exercise as an integral part of their business, meaning that when facilities were permitted to reopen, many could not due to capacity restrictions or commercial viability.

The sector has demonstrated an extremely low prevalence of COVID-19 among people who have visited fitness and leisure facilities. ukactive provided the UK governments with data from more than 2,000 sites, showing an overall rate of just 1.7 cases per 100,000 visits (from July to December 2020) – with no indication that these people caught COVID-19 at the facility or had it when they visited.

During the pandemic, financial pressures have resulted in the loss of around 400 gyms, pools and leisure facilities across the UK, with thousands more remaining under threat. In some cases, facilities will be unable to reopen due to operational restrictions such as reduced capacity, which make them financial unviable in the short term.

On Thursday, ukactive Chair Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson wrote to the Prime Minister urging the Government to extend the National Leisure Recovery Fund for public operators, and introduce VAT relief for the private sector in line with other sectors.

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “Group exercise classes and indoor sports are loved by millions of people across the UK so it’s great to see them start to return today.

“Through these popular community activities, our members have become the engine room of physical activity in our nations, making their reopening a vital moment for our physical and mental recovery.

“However, our sector still needs support and we will continue to fight hard for the financial and regulatory help which is urgently required so that as many facilities as possible are able to survive and recover fully.

“Our members have shown tremendous courage and resilience in the harshest of environments, having to make tough operational decisions while facing no income during this period of lockdown.

“It’s time to support these vital facilities to play their fullest role in our nation’s health and wellbeing.”

For the latest Government guidance in England click here