As leisure centre numbers slump, let’s hope stayaways haven’t turned into couch potatoes

by Colin Campbell

IN its first week of reopening the Inverness leisure centre has been surprisingly if not remarkably quiet.

Inverness leisure centre numbers have tumbled after reopening.

I’ve been there each evening at what was formerly peak time, between 6pm and 7pm, and not once in the expanded gym area has there been more than half a dozen people there. Sometimes there have been more staff around than customers.

Before lockdown the place would have been packed out from end to end, with every machine in use and people often waiting to get on.

Staff have informally confirmed to me how activity levels at the venue have tumbled compared with what they were.

As with so much else about the current situation, much is impossible to predict, and we have to expect the unexpected.

Before the reopening of the centre I wondered how it would be able to cope with the number of people seeking access, based on the huge number who used to frequent the venue. The place was a hive of energy and activity.

But so far, that’s not been how it has turned out at all.

I have no access to numbers. But from what I’ve seen I doubt if more than half the number of previous customers have returned and that may well be a substantial overestimation. The actual figure could be down to a quarter or less.

There can be no criticism of High Life Highland or its staff who have done a superb job in getting the centre up and running again while some similar venues elsewhere in Scotland remain closed.

All safety and social distancing measures are in place and despite being in the older more at risk category with regards to the virus I have no anxiety whatever about using the centre. Neither, I would say, should anyone else feel nervous about returning.

But quite obviously many have not returned, or at least not yet.

Is nervousness about virus risk keeping people away? Or is there the equally obvious possibility that many have just lost the exercise habit over the past few months and will struggle to get it back. In this era of rampant obesity and related health problems what a disastrous consequence of the virus that would be.

For those of us who are back at Inverness Leisure the current situation is actualy fine, having so much of the place to ourselves. We await to see if and when that’ll start to change, and it is of course early days yet.

But the broader picture is it would be regrettable for various obvious reasons if anxiety mixed with apathy and lethargy meant that a significant number of former users of the Inverness leisure centre will not return.

This virus is taking its toll in so many ways. One of the worst would be if it converted formerly active people keeping fit and healthy into stayaway couch potatoes.

 

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