Closing gyms may do more harm than good

The entrepreneur behind the M Club health and fitness chain has accused the Government of ‘ignoring the science’ with its plans to shut down gyms during the new lockdown in England.

Mo Chaudry, who grew up in Wellington, Shropshie, has just opened Staffordshire’s largest ever gym at Waterworld leisure resort in Stoke-on-Trent, and owns and runs health clubs with a combined total of almost 300,000 sq ft of air-conditioned space.

His businesses also operate 20 fitness and soccer centres, and the UK’s largest indoor tropical water park.

Mr Chaudry believes the Government’s decision to shut down gyms again on November 5 could do ‘more harm than good’ to many people.

“The Government has been at pains to insist that this latest lockdown is based on scientific data – but in the case of modern gyms and fitness centres, this simply isn’t the case,” he said.

“Public Health England’s own data shows that just 2.8 per cent of test and trace cases involve people who have visited gyms, compared with 11.2 per cent at supermarkets, and 6.8 per cent at schools.

“Yet supermarkets and schools are going to remain open – it makes absolutely no sense.”

Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, has backed up Mr Chaudry’s claims, saying: “I'm not aware that there is a significant hotspot for infections in the gym environment."

He said much of the risk could be dramatically lowered through things like effective air-conditioning, regular cleaning, social distancing and hand sanitising – all of which is already part of the M Club Covid-19 routine.

Mr Chaudry added: “I believe closing gyms this time could do more harm than good. Exercise is a vital component in maintaining people’s mental and physical health, which is in a very brittle state right now.

“Our new modern, air-conditioned facility couldn’t be more spacious or socially distanced.

“How can it possibly be safer for people to go back into a school, college or university, than it is for them to set foot in a gym, which has the tightest of Covid-19 precautions in place?

“This makes no sense at all – it’s ridiculous. We are also having to close our water park, even though the Waterworld complex is around 100,000sq ft, fully chlorinated, and cleaned with ozone gas, which kills coronavirus.

“The benefits of exercise are enormous to the UK population, both in terms people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

“Allowing people to lead healthier lives saves the NHS billions. The Government and its scientific advisers have acknowledged that people who lead healthier lifestyles are at a lower risk of being seriously affected by Covid-19.”

Mr Chaudry added: “Where is the scientific evidence to justify another closure of gyms?

“If the Government can provide proof that there is a greater risk to public health from larger indoor gyms than allowing people to go to their supermarket, then let’s see it.

“Otherwise, stop discriminating unfairly against the health and fitness industry, and apply some common sense to the situation.”

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