Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Petition Open gyms first as we come out of lockdown & fund a Work Out to Help Out scheme

We want the government to recognise the importance of gyms, health clubs, leisure centres and swimming pools in empowering people to look after their health and stay fit and for them to open first as we come out of lockdown.

We're also calling for government to fund a Work Out to Help Out scheme.

More details

Gyms are an essential service in underpinning the health of the nation.

Activity levels fell dramatically during 2020 lockdowns, as people could not get to their gym to exercise safely.

The government opened pubs before gyms and spent £500m on the Eat Out to Help Out scheme which encouraged unhealthy behaviour in a health crisis.

The virus is more serious for people who are overweight and unfit. The focus this time must be on health and wellbeing and getting people active.

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Parliament debated this topic

This topic was debated on 22 March 2021

Watch the petition 'Open gyms first as we come out of lockdown & fund a Work Out to Help Out scheme' being debated

Government responded

This response was given on 16 March 2021

Sports & physical activity providers play a crucial role in supporting everyone to be active. We continue to work with our partners to encourage the usage of sports facilities when they open in April.

Read the response in full

Sports and physical activity are crucial for our mental and physical health. The Chief Medical Officer is clear that being physically active is important to long-term health and crucial for keeping people healthy. That’s why we have continued to make sure that people can exercise throughout the national restrictions, and why we have ensured that grassroots and children’s sport is front of the queue when easing those restrictions.

On Monday 22 February, the Prime Minister announced a roadmap out of the current lockdown in England. The roadmap outlines four steps for easing restrictions. There will be a minimum of five weeks between each step: four weeks for the data to reflect changes in restrictions; followed by seven days’ notice of the restrictions to be eased. The Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser have made clear that this will give adequate time to assess the impact of each step and reduce the risk of having to re-impose restrictions at a later date.

Step 2 will take place no earlier than 12 April and as part of this indoor leisure (including gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools) will reopen. Step 3 will take place no earlier than 17 May and, as part of this, exercise classes can resume. Tighter restrictions are required for indoor facilities such as gyms because we know transmission rates are higher indoors.

We do not intend to fund a Work Out to Help Out Scheme. Government has provided unprecedented support to businesses through tax reliefs, cash grants and employee wage support, which many sport clubs have benefited from. On top of wider economic support, the Government has announced a £100m support fund for local authority leisure centres to ensure these important facilities remain available once public health restrictions are lifted.

Sport England has also provided £220million directly to support community sport clubs and exercise centres through this pandemic, via a range of funds including their £35million Community Emergency Fund. This sector support was recently boosted by an extra £50million to help grassroots sports clubs and organisations as part of Sport England’s new strategy Uniting the Movement.

We will continue to work with partners including Sport England and ukactive to open sports facilities and to encourage their usage. An example of the work the sector is leading in this area is the Fit Together campaign, developed by ukactive in line with their re-opening framework for operating a fitness or leisure facility. Fit Together aims to raise awareness among the public that people can return to their facilities and be active in a safe environment. Further information on the campaign and the measures gyms and leisure facilities have committed in reopening can be found here.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/567492)

Other parliamentary business

Original Government response

Sports and leisure facilities are crucial for supporting adults and children to be active. We will promote exercise throughout the pandemic and encourage the use of sports facilities when they reopen

Sports and physical activity are incredibly important for our physical and mental health, and are a vital weapon against coronavirus. That’s why we have made sure that people can exercise throughout the national and local tiered restrictions. We will need to raise levels of fitness among the population as we prepare to return to our normal lives, now the vaccination programme has begun.

No government would want to be in a position of needing to close gyms. They give enormous health benefits and are large employers. We could not though allow the healthcare system to be overwhelmed so we were required to introduce the current national lockdown.

The National Restrictions are designed to get the R rate under control through limiting social contact and reducing transmissions. All decisions made by the Government relating to the pandemic and sport, including the closure of gyms, have been based on advice from health and scientific experts.

Government has provided unprecedented support to businesses through tax reliefs, cash grants and employee wage support, which many sport clubs have benefited from. On top of wider economic support, the Government has announced a £100m support fund for local authority leisure centres to ensure these important facilities remain available once public health restrictions are lifted.

We will continue to work with partners including Sport England and ukactive to open sports facilities as soon as it is safe to do so and to encourage their usage. On 26 January Sport England published their strategy ‘Uniting the Movement’. As well as promoting the importance of physical activity, the strategy focuses on helping grassroots sport facilities to recover from the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

This response was given on 9 February 2021. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

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