The Scottish Conservatives are calling on the Scottish Government to allow gyms to open at level 4 to help improve physical activity and mental health during Winter.
The party’s leader Douglas Ross MP says ditching the closure policy “would do immense good” with countless residents in Tier 4 having contacted both him and his MSP colleagues to ask for the change.
Gyms are currently closed in level 4, the rules in which 11 council areas in Scotland, around 2 million people, are living under until 11 December.
Gyms in England were approved to re-open, across all tiers, following the end of lockdown this week.
Studies in Europe and England have found low Covid-19 case rates at gyms, with transmission rates well below 1 per 100,000.
Douglas Ross MP, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “There is a growing demand from many residents in Tier 4 locations to be allowed to use their local gyms once more and the Scottish Conservatives think they are right and it would do immense good.
“Re-opening the gyms will help boost physical activity which will reap rewards for people’s mental health. This is very important as the isolation caused by Covid restrictions can take a serious toll on an individual’s wellbeing.”
Donald Cameron MSP, Scottish Conservatives Shadow Secretary for Health and Sport, added; “As it gets colder and the days shorter, it becomes harder to exercise outdoors and many people do not have the space or equipment to do so in their homes.
“That is why the Scottish Conservatives are calling on the Scottish Government to allow gyms to reopen in level 4 over the winter.
“We should balance the restrictions with the need to avoid doing damage to people’s physical and mental fitness.”
Public Health Scotland has a Test and Protect category in their case management system for ‘exercise’. This however includes outdoor and indoor activities. This is listed as ‘Ranges from an outside walk to visiting a gym’. (Public Health Scotland, COVID-19 Statistical Report – Metadata – Events, 25 November 2020, link).
Latest weekly report shows that “exercise” is around 6 per cent of all new cases lodged in the case management system. The latest figures for the week ending 15 November had the number of cases of exercise marked in the Test and Protect system as 490 out of the 8,015 new cases added to the case management system. (Public Health Scotland, COVID-19 Statistical Report,Pg13, 25 November 2020, link).
In September, SAGE said the closure of indoor gyms, leisure centres, fitness etc could see a ‘Potential reduction in Rt of up to 0.1, though precise estimation very difficult’. They added: ‘Some evidence from outbreak data e.g. in Korea associated with fitness class. Environmental risks linked to high touch surfaces in gyms, higher aerosol generation and breathing rates due to aerobic activity’. (UK Government, SAGE, 21 September 2020, link).
In September, industry body ukactive claimed that the fitness and leisure sector reported a COVID-19 rate of 0.34 per 100,000 visits since reopening in England. They said: ‘Gyms and leisure facilities in England have seen more than 22 million visits since reopening but just 78 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among customers. Data from over 1500 facilities across the nation shows that the prevalence of the virus within the sector’s facilities remains extremely low, measured from 25 July to 13 September, and that very few people are visiting gyms with the virus. Based on the data reported, the number of cases per 100,000 visits is 0.34, showing that protocols for monitoring and reporting the virus in the sector are helping to reduce the risk to visitors’. (ukactive, 19 September 2020, link).
A European research project, safeACTiVE put the average infection rate at 0.78 per 100,000 visits to the gym. The SafeACTiVE study, commissioned by EuropeActive's Research Centre THINK Active, aimed to demonstrate the relative risk of COVID-19 infection in fitness clubs. Since the study's official launch on 25th September 2020, research and evaluation partners have collected data based on more than 62 million visits to fitness clubs and leisure facilities with only 487 positive cases (of both members and staff) reported from operators based in Germany, France, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, Luxembourg and The United Kingdom. (Europeanactive, 27 October 2020, link).
NHS Scotland states that exercise can reduce your risk of major illnesses by up to 50 per cent. They state: ‘The medically proven health benefits of regular physical activity include, up to a 50 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes and up to a 50 per cent lower risk of colon cancer’. There is also ‘up to a 30 per cent lower risk of dementia and up to a 35 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke’. (NHS Inform, accessed on 1 December 2020, link).
Researchers say exercising for 150 minutes a week can help ease mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Sports sociology researchers from the University of South Australia and MSH Medical School Hamburg in Germany assessed the levels of anxiety and depression among 682 recreational athletes under different conditions along with similar amounts of exercise and intensity. Athletes who met the World Health Organization’s exercise guidelines generally experienced better mental health than those that didn’t. The guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week for healthy adults ages 18 to 64. (Healthline, 14 February 2020, link; Researchgate, March 2019, link).