Time to get moving again – but centres for health and fitness must stay closed

by Colin Campbell

GYMS in Inverness and elsewhere won’t be allowed to reopen until September 15, Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday.

So that’s another seven weeks of these citadels of health, fitness, and physical and mental wellbeing remaining lockfast and bolted.

That will not please leisure entrepreneur Duncan Bannantyne, who earlier this week denounced the delay in getting these facilities up and running again in Scotland, and said he might have to start shutting them down permanently if the reopening ban went on much longer .

And more importantly, it will not please the many people in the Highland capital who face a delay in returning to indoor exercise – at the city’s Bannantyne’s and others – which will now extend to a full six months.

Duncan Bannantyne is a flamboyant character who likes making money. But there’s nothing wrong with that and it certainly doesn’t make him wrong on this issue. In particular, he singled out the ridiculous situation where pubs are already fully back in business but gyms and swimming pools are left trailing far behind them.

That makes no sense on any level.

While the Inverness leisure centre with its huge number of customers faces obvious difficulties in working out an entirely new system to slash the numbers in the building at any one time, privately-run gyms across the city are in a very different situation.

They have far fewer clients and if restrictions have to be imposed at certain times that should involve minimal planning and upheaval, and they are well capable of doing it.

They have the staff and resources to sanitise equipment and space out machines so social distancing measures can be properly enforced, with very little disruption for their users.

I’ve been in half a dozen private gyms in Inverness and even at peak times they are nowhere near crowded.

But still another seven weeks will have to pass before they reopen their doors.

The level of virus-spreading risk in gyms, even allowing for the adrenalin and endeavour, will be fractional compared with that which is all too obvious in and around city centre pubs, which at weekends when the booze starts flowing are virtually a social distancing free zone. That is glaringly, alarmingly evident every Friday and Saturday night.

With very few exceptions amid the queues for entry and the well-lubricated nocturnal clamour, virtually no-one pays any attention to “the rules”. They might never have been announced and the virus might never have existed when city nightlife gets in full swing.

If there is to be a flare-up of virus infections, that’s precisely where it’s going to come from.

No wonder Duncan Bannantyne and many of his customers find it frustrating that this is going on while they are prevented from getting back on the treadmills and the exercise machines.

The longer the reopening delay drags on, how many more people are also liable to lose the gym habit? And it is very easily lost, in some cases between the first and second weeks in January, when New Year resolutions to lose weight and get fit and active are abandoned within days as folk give up on a bit of sweat and strain to return to nights watching TV on the couch.

Pub goers can get sloshed shoulder to shoulder and end up slobbering all over each other while people who want to retain or regain fitness in regulated surroundings are denied the chance to do so.

Nicola Sturgeon’s mixed record has seen her make some outstandingly bad decisions over the past five months.

Gyms remaining at the far end of the queue for reopening while pubs were allowed to throw open their doors weeks ago is close to the top of the list of the perverse rulings she’s made.

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