Closing gyms and leisure centres, means two-thirds of cancer prehab and rehab services have been out of action
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Closing gyms and leisure centres, means two-thirds of cancer prehab and rehab services have been out of action

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The UK's physical activity sector is currently lobbying to have gyms and leisure centres classed as essential services, in order for them to be able to operate during COVID-19 lockdowns.

There is, however, plenty of evidence to suggest that the sector already is an essential service.

This is the view of Greg Whyte, chair of ukactive's, Scientific Advisory Board and Professor of Applied Sport and Exercise Science at Liverpool John Moores University.

According to Whyte, a perfect example of the essential nature of the sector is the fact that two-thirds of the country's cancer prehabilitation and rehabilitation support services are delivered at industry facilities.

"According to Anthony Crozier and the PAEx team at Liverpool John Moore’s University, 66 per cent of our nation’s cancer prehabilitation and rehabilitation support services are delivered at leisure centres, with 69 per cent of this provision funded through local authorities and the third sector," Whyte says.

"In addition, 73 per cent of functional assessments and 80 per cent of the exercise programmes which support these interventions are delivered by Level 4 instructors from the sector.

"If we are to avoid a future healthcare catastrophe, we must recognise the fitness sector as an essential service."

Whyte also said the need for the physical activity sector's support services will only grow, once the country emerges from the pandemic.

"Macmillan recently reported 50,000 undiagnosed cases of cancer during the first lockdown, a figure that is projected to break 100,000 by next year," Whyte said.

"But the damage caused by lockdown does not end with missed diagnosis, because the closure of gyms and leisure facilities also has an impact.

"If we are to protect our health service, which is reportedly at breaking point, and effectively deal with COVID-19 and avoid a future healthcare catastrophe, we must recognise the fitness and leisure sector as an essential service in the prevention and treatment of disease – as well as enhancing the health of the nation – and keep these valuable facilities open."

• To read more on Whyte's thoughts on why gyms and leisure centres should be classed as essential, click here to read his blog post on the ukactive website.

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The UK's physical activity sector is currently lobbying to have gyms and leisure centres classed as essential services, in order for them to be able to operate during COVID-19 lockdowns.
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