UK Group Fitness and Wellness instructors demand an apology regarding comments and gestures on 22nd February at the COVID-19 general debate and direct support from the government to continue with work in the community that is a cornerstone for physical and mental health.
Under the new steps to open back up, group indoor exercise will not be able to resume before the 17th May. This is possibly the worst time for the fitness industry to try to re-establish business.
Unlike travel, holiday and hospitality industries, from June - August , the fitness and wellness industry experiences its lowest rates of uptake as schools come to the end of term and everyone goes on holiday. This seasonal variance means a lot of businesses usually wind down and or shut during this time.
In essence therefore, we will not be able to return until September 2021. This will mean many fitness/wellness businesses will have been out of action for in-person exercise activity for 19 months.
There are an estimated 69,000 fitness instructors in the UK(1). While many of these would have been employed in gyms. Most will be freelance, self employed or running a small business
There is a core group of instructors - Fitness, yoga, pilates and specialist groups such as pre and postnatal, kids, older adults, Tai Chi and Dance, who work in the community as a small business enterprise.
4.6 Million People Attend Group Exercise Weekly(1)
Group exercise (prior to the pandemic) was one of the fastest growing fitness trends, with instructors themselves sited as a key reason for motivating people to exercise(2)
Only 35% of group exercise is carried out within gyms chains. The rest is either through public facilities or through small individual studios, privately owned(3)
Instructors running their own businesses have a direct connection with their Clientele - Participants to us are not just numbers, profit margins or attrition rates. They are people we care for and look after. They are our livelihood but they are also our friends and neighbours. Fitness and Wellness instructors are key people within communities, working for both physical and mental health.
During the pandemic, we have worked tirelessly to support our local communities and keep our businesses alive, switching to online offerings, having to invest large sums on new equipment, turning our homes into online exercise studios and spending huge amounts of time developing new skills required to work in a digital environment. The workload has been relentless and many of us are suffering from burnout and mental health issues. All this whilst having to home school children as well as keep on top of our work load .
As small business owners/company directors, we are not entitled to any support through furlough or grants, only receiving bounce back loans on which payments are soon looming.
The government needs to take into consideration how the pandemic has affected the fitness and wellness industry and certain sectors of those industries, specifically those who own and rent small indoor space to teach fitness and wellness classes. We are the cornerstones of our industry, making a difference in our communities by providing vital, personal services that can dramatically help to improve lives. Despite our efforts to reach out, we are currently unable to reach many of the people that need us most. From older generations who struggle with online offerings to new mothers or pregnant women that find it harder to engage in online activities, due to the complexity of their needs and childcare issues. The mental health of this country is in crisis. Our services provide an important part of helping with the overall wellness of so many individuals.
On 22nd February at the COVID-19 general debate the Prime Minister and the Deputy Speaker of the House sniggered and laughed when an MP mentioned Zumba classes and when they could return. Do they not realise they are laughing at peoples livelihoods? And that it’s not just Zumba classes? From Tai Chi for older adults, Yoga, Pilates and many specialist class groups that can only be provided by small Individuals within local communities - we do a lot for our community’s mental and physical health, yet it was sneered at as if insignificant and of no worth.
We demand an apology, a recognition of our services and, in view of the devastation of the pandemic, support in the form of grants to continue with work in the community that is a cornerstone of physical and mental health.
Fitness industry in the United Kingdom (UK) - Statistics & Facts, Christina Gogh, Dec 3 2020.
American College of Sports Medicine Fitness. Fitness Trends 2019/20
2018 GROUP EXERCISE NATIONAL SURVEY REPORT EMDUK.org 2018