The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy will shortly be allowing for the reopening of gyms, fitness studios and leisure centres although this may be phased differently across the four nations. Industry bodies and health and fitness operators are busy working on how to safely open and operate their facilities. Considerable work is underway to reconfigure venues alongside an array of COVID-19 operating protocols. This will be supported by educational and training interventions that ensure a safe workplace and exercise setting.
UK Fitness Industry Reopening Framework
I see three distinct components to help mitigate SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19 as shown in the figure below.
Much work is taking place around the first two pillars but I believe there needs to be greater discussion and emphasis on the COVID-19 Track and Trace pillar. This is because a ‘gym’ is not an ‘island’ but an integral and connected part of a wider community where actions and behaviours impact people far beyond its walls.
When the UK fitness industry is permitted to reopen, many millions of people will begin returning to the gyms, studios and leisure centres following the longest closure in its history. At this point all ‘stakeholders’, including employees, freelance trainers, members and senior management must all play their part in helping to stop the spread of the coronavirus into our communities. Although we have all lived with his new coronavirus for several months now we must not become complacent. Only recently (June 10, 2020) Chris Whitty, the Chief medical Officer for England said:
“Be very clear we are not at the end of this epidemic, not by a long shot, we are in the middle of it.”
Gyms are part of a wider and connected community
As members and customers return to their workouts it will be imperative to instil in them all their moral responsibility not to visit their gym if exhibiting any COVID-19 signs (e.g observable by a physician such as a high fever, a cough) or symptoms (e.g the person reports feeling fatigued and a recent loss of taste). I do not believe that any proposed reception checks, posters and educational communications will be sufficient because a person’s motivation to visit their gym may be higher than their sense of moral responsibility to other gym members and the wider community. I have illustrated this in the Fogg Behaviour Model below which shows the conflicting motivation that a member has when they excitedly want to return to the gym, but have been asked by a contact tracer to quarantine for 14-days or they self-diagnose a Covid-19 sign or symptom. The motivation to return to the gym is going to be high and a green light to reopen creates a critical ‘prompt’ which means that the person leaps over that action line seen on the Fogg model.
Beyond asking people to do the right thing – COVID Symptom Study
Although we can ask that members that are symptomatic or have been requested to quarantine to ‘play their part and do the right thing’, it needs more. Therefore, one simple and very effective intervention that I would like to see is the fitness industry encourage staff, members and its customers to join the COVID Symptom Study by downloading the app which has been developed by health science company ZOE. Data collected is shared with and analysed by King’s College London & ZOE research teams. To date, more than 3.8 million people across the UK have downloaded the app making it the largest public science project of its kind anywhere in the world. Reporting your health takes less than one minute to complete. Reporting my heath has now become a daily routine and has already triggered one test for COVID-19 which came back negative. The more people that use the app, then the greater will be our collective understanding for how fast the virus is spreading across the regions of the country.
Create a new habit before gyms reopen
If staff and members form a habit of reporting their health daily now, then it may help to foster higher levels of responsible behaviour later. In other words, the motivation to comply with quarantine could be increased – the needs of the wider community are put ahead of the individual.
Reporting daily health status takes less than one minute
There are just five simple steps in the app to report your health status.
Let ‘s get behind the COVID Symptom Study and download the app
As the United Kingdom begins to reopen we all need play our part in helping to reduce the likelihood of a second wave. This benefits everyone and may prevent the need for industries to re-close. The UK fitness industry can substantially increase upon the 3.8 million people that are already contributing to this remarkable study. The first realistic milestone is for the fitness industry to help this vital study to reach 4 million people. In doing so, we will all be helping to keep our clubs and wider communities safe as well as supporting the NHS and scientists in the UK.
Discover more about the COVID Symptom Study here after which I recommend you download the app.
1 Reconfiguring in figure 1 relates to the physical restructuring of buildings.
2 Operating protocols relate to standards and operating practices (e.g reduce group exercise classes from 55 minutes to 30 minutes in order to reduce potential exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
3 A ‘stakeholder’ is any person who impacts or is impacted by the business.