‘I have had clients cry at me’ - Gym owners worried over lockdown impact on mental and physical health

Owners Sheena and David Smith Crossfit Spitfire gym in Norwich. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Owners Sheena and David Smith Crossfit Spitfire gym in Norwich. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Gym owners have voiced major concerns over people’s mental and physical health after government orders to shut leisure businesses as part of the new lockdown.

Imogen Clarke, owner of Inspire Personal Training Studio. Picture: Inspire Personal Training Studio

Imogen Clarke, owner of Inspire Personal Training Studio. Picture: Inspire Personal Training Studio - Credit: Inspire Personal Training Studio

Gyms and fitness centres, along with non-essential shops, will close from Thursday until December 2 as the government attempts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

But owners of gyms have said these types of businesses should stay open as they are safe, clean and help prevent mental and physical health problems.

Mark Bone, 42, owner of Phoenix Gym Norwich, on St Marys Works, said: “It is ridiculous. Most people who come to our gym want the equipment and safe social interaction and environment.

“Our members are devastated. Mental health is going to be impacted. I don’t think the government realises the emotional impact on people who exercise. It is like taking a drug away. People need that relief and me-time.”

Mark Bone, owner of Phoenix Gym Norwich, helping a client in the studio before lockdown. Photo: Must

Mark Bone, owner of Phoenix Gym Norwich, helping a client in the studio before lockdown. Photo: Mustard TV - Credit: Mustard TV


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He added that gyms helped tackle health issues including obesity and diabetes, which he said were contributory factors in catching Covid-19.

MORE: Seeing family and NCFC games - the new national lockdown rulesMr Bone said the temporary closure of gyms would cost the NHS more money in the future and added the gym had received phone calls from non-members suffering with mental health issues and wanting support.

He has spent £60,000 on refurbishing his gym to make it Covid secure and said it would survive another lockdown but knew of other gyms which have had to close.

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Imogen Clarke, 28, from Drayton, who set up Inspire Personal Training Studio on Page Road, Norwich, in March 2019, said gyms were probably the cleanest places around at the moment and should remain open for one-to-one sessions as outside training in winter was not possible.

David Bacchus, 23, who uses BWell Gym in Great Yarmouth. Picture: David Bacchus

David Bacchus, 23, who uses BWell Gym in Great Yarmouth. Picture: David Bacchus - Credit: Archant

She said: “In the last two days I have had clients cry at me. They feel exercise and the gym is their time.”

Miss Clarke will start up Zoom exercise classes as will CrossFit Spitfire gym on Salhouse Road, Norwich.

Owner, director and head coach, David Smith, 41, said: “It has been devastating. We will do whatever it takes to keep going and do our best. We are relying on the goodwill of our members.”

Tesco supermarket worker David Bacchus, 23, who has been a member of BWell Gym, on Bessemer Way, Great Yarmouth for four months, said: “The gym helps me become more mobile and a stronger person, which also keeps my health in check as well, where in the past I have often caught many illnesses before changing my life around.

Kate Banks, owner of The Gym in Fakenham. Picture: Kate Banks

Kate Banks, owner of The Gym in Fakenham. Picture: Kate Banks - Credit: Kate Banks

“Mentally, the gym prevents my mental wellbeing from getting any worse, I have had mental health illnesses before which have stopped me from doing the things I love today.

“With the pandemic, millions of us have been experiencing depression, anxiety and many more feelings which ruin our mental health. The gym is not a place to just exercise, it really does help you with your mental strength and mine has improved so much over the time I’ve been able to go and train.”

He added: “My frustration with lockdown number two is people will not want to exercise during this incoming terrible weather. I myself work so I can not always get the exercise I need. As well as the cold weather I will not want to go outside, whereas the gym is an indoor area which is Covid-secure, very clean and social distancing is always going on.

“From the gym I have been training at, there has not been any cases of coronavirus.”

Mother-of-three Kate Banks, 38, from Great Massingham, who has owned The Gym, on George Edwards Road in Fakenham, was forced to close her business from March until the end of July during the first lockdown.

In that period she spent a large amount on rent, utilities and making the building Covid-secure.

She said a second lockdown would leave her in a sticky situation.

“I threw everything into this,” Miss Banks added.

She believed another lockdown and lack of access to exercise in gyms would leave some people with dark thoughts.

A spokesperson for Nuffield Health, which has a gym on Barrack Street, Norwich, said: “We are disappointed by the government’s decision to close gyms in the latest lockdown measures. Gyms have an essential role to play in the physical and mental health of the nation, especially as we enter the winter months.

“The health and safety of our members and employees will continue to be our top priority. We have implemented a number of changes, following guidance from UK Active, the UK government, Public Health England and our infection prevention team to keep our sites safe. The data collected since gyms reopened in July overwhelmingly shows these measures have been successful across the sector, and that gyms are a safe and secure environment.

“We will be contacting all our members to update them, and their membership fees will be frozen for the duration the club is closed. We hope to be able to welcome our members back as soon as possible.”

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