Pandemic effect

A million gym users quit as sector loses £3.5bn

Many gyms stayed closed after the pandemic

At least 500 gyms and leisure centres permanently closed during the pandemic and a million former members stopped using one, according to a new report.

London Medical Laboratory (LML) says the UK’s fitness industry may never return to full health after the impact of Covid-19.

Dr Quinton Fivelman, chief scientific officer at LML, said: “More than 40% of adults in England gained weight during the pandemic, with the average gain being half a stone (just over 3kg).

“Many people put on even more than this, leading to the so-called “Quarantine 15” – gaining 15 pounds, or just over 1 stone.

“It’s not surprising we’re all out of shape. During the pandemic, people had to stay indoors and work from home with little access to exercise. Gyms were forced to remain closed for eight months out of 12 between March 2020 and March 2021. Many of them, sadly, never reopened their doors.”

Pre-pandemic, there were about 7,200 health and fitness clubs with some 10 million members. That number has fallen to 6,700. Big name facilities, such as DW Sports, which ran 72 gyms across the UK, went into administration.

In addition, one in three councils in England have warned they may have to close at least one leisure centre. The sports and fitness sector lost around £3.5 billion income in 2020/1.

Dr Fivelman says: “Fortunately, those sports and fitness facilities that survived the pandemic are leaner and in better shape than they were in 2019. Gyms have reported an average 15% rise in memberships during January and February this year. The big question is, how long will it take gym-goers to return to their former fitness levels? We are not the same people that we were three years ago.”

Weighting game: Tom Russell and Craig Guthrie

One company that believes demand will remain healthy is Factory Weights which will supply gym equipment to the trade and consumer markets from a new HQ in Glasgow’s east end.

Tom Russell and Craig Guthrie set up the business in Spring last year, amid rising demand for at-home workouts and online training programmes. 

The company is aiming to employ up to 30 staff at the 40,000 sq ft facility off London Road.

Mr Russell said : “We launched our business after seeing the demand for good quality gym equipment surge throughout the pandemic.

The company plans to launch a personal training academy.

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