In order to answer the question we need to first look at those attending the gym. Having been in the industry for 7 years, in and out of gyms for 15 years and surrounding myself with fellow gym goers, I’ve come to learn a few things about general population gym members..
Not everyone wants bulging biceps, peachy buttocks, or washboard abs. Whilst that can be a nice by product of their gym sessions, that’s not the main reason they go day in and day out.
So why do they go to the gym so often if they’re not too concerned about their progress?
Having somewhere to go when you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, angry, anxious, depressed or lonely is a massive benefit of having a gym membership. Most members will have experienced one or more of these emotions and used a gym session to recalibrate and feel better. Having a sense of community, a place where you belong, someone saying hi to you on reception, seeing the same faces you normally do, giving a little nod of acknowledgement.. Having somewhere to go without the other half or kids, having your own space, taking some ‘me time’.. All these things feed into our basic needs.
Gym members who live by themselves would often spend much more time in the gym, chatting between sets, striking up conversations and generally not focussing on the task at hand as much as they could. These are people who are suffering from the gym closures the most. Further more, people like 68 year old Steven with a bad back can’t just go and do his workouts on Hove Beach. He needs gym equipment, he needs the community atmosphere and he needs a sense of belonging. This part of his daily routine has been blasted out the water without a second thought. His mobility will deteriorate, his muscle mass will reduce, his cardio fitness will be impaired and his mental health will be affected.. This will have a knock on effect on his quality and length of life, potentially leading to illnesses and diseases which could have been avoided with regular exercise and public interaction.
Through this time, instead of going to the gym, people have been finding other ways to relieve stress. Most turning to comfort food and alcohol, and during these dark days that's totally understandable.
Not only are we discouraging exercise by closing gyms in the middle of winter, but we’re pushing people towards bad habits, addictive habits which can have serious effects on health.
Once the gyms are open again we’ll be able to get back to our routines.. But this time we’ll be struggling with other issues like alcoholism, drug abuse, emotional eating and mental health. Those things won't just disappear when lockdown is lifted.
Whilst we agree that gyms needed to close to stop the spread, we feel there was not a big enough safety net in place for the ‘every day gym member’ who needed their membership for more than just workouts. The pandemic has crushed the mental health and fitness of many individuals, and that’s without even contracting the virus itself.
How to overcome this problem is another story entirely.