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Gyms are Covid-safe and should stay open, say researchers

Photo issued by Sheffield Hallam University of Director of their Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) Professor Rob Copeland, who has said "data from the SafeACTiVE study shows that gyms across the EU are safe places to exercise," as academics have found they pose an extremely low Covid-19 risk.

By Dave Higgens, PA

Keeping gyms and leisure centres open is critical to ensuring the health and wellbeing of communities, according to academics who found they pose an extremely low Covid-19 risk.

Analysis of more than 62 million fitness facility visits across Europe since September has found the average infection rate in gyms, leisure centres and fitness clubs is 0.78 per 100,000 visits.

The SafeACTiVE study found only 487 positive cases reported from operators based in Germany, France, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, Luxembourg and the UK.

The preliminary findings of the study, conducted by Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) and King Juan Carlos University in Spain, will bolster calls from the fitness sector for facilities to remain open as coronavirus restrictions tighten in some regions.

Director of the AWRC Professor Rob Copeland said: “Data from the SafeACTiVE study shows that gyms across the EU are safe places to exercise.

“The prevention of the further spread of Covid-19 has to be our primary objective but we also need to ensure that our communities are supported and have the opportunity to remain active.

“We know that being physically fit can help reduce the severity of Covid-19 infection and, moreover, being active can help us cope psychologically when faced with the challenges of a second wave of the pandemic across Europe.

“Keeping leisure centres and fitness clubs open and fully operational is critical to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our communities.

“I would go further and suggest that governments across Europe should be thinking about how we can increase access to activity, not reduce it, as we learn to live with Covid-19.”

The research has been commissioned by EuropeActive – a non-profit association for the European fitness and physical activity sector.

Professor Alfonso Jimenez, head of THINK Active at EuropeActive, said: “I am delighted to confirm such a low level of infection risk in fitness and health clubs, reinforcing the message that fitness and physical activity are a fundamental part of the solution during the Covid-19 pandemic in helping strengthen and improve immune functioning and lower risk of viral illness.”

The full report is expected to be released in November.