Gyms reopen in England today – but there's a big catch

Gyms are back open once again in England, but group exercise classes are still off the menu

Woman exercising in gyms
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As lockdown measures begin to ease thanks to the COVID-19 vaccination programmes taking place across the world, fitness fans are anxious to return to their pre-pandemic gym schedules. Today, April 12, marks England lifting lockdown restrictions for businesses such as bars and restaurants (as long as you're eating or drinking outside), hairdressers, shops and, yes, gyms. 

Gyms in the UK have opened and closed before now, as repeated lockdowns have left many businesses in limbo. However, this hopefully marks the last closure, as the all-important vaccination programmes mean the UK population is increasingly becoming safe from the virus.

Fit&Well writer Lucy Gornall was among those first in the door this morning. She said: 'It was different to post-lockdown one, where everyone tentatively walked back into the gym. This time, the gym was busy from the get go, and the weights area –because naturally we don't all have barbells and dumbbells at home – was heaving. I almost had to queue for a squat rack." 

The best adjustable dumbbells and best resistance bands have been in high demand since gyms closed in early 2020, and many people have been out of luck. Likewise, heavy barbell weights and squat racks have been off-limits to those without a full home gym setup, forcing people to turn to bodyweight exercises like push ups, squats, pull-ups and dips.

Man using exercise equipment at the gym with a mask

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lucy said: "It's clear people have been desperate for the gym and their fitness routines to return. And, like before, wipes and sanitiser were scattered throughout my gym – Fitness First Cottons at London Bridge – as were social distancing signs."

There are clear rules for gyms reopening in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic: gymgoers must respect social distancing measures, sanitise equipment and be in and out promptly, to allow others the chance to exercise in safety. Most gyms in England (and soon, across the rest of the world) will have these rules in place for the forseeable future, which actually doesn't sound too bad. After all, who doesn't want to exercise in a more hygienic, more spacious environment?

However, there's a catch, and a pretty big one. Indoor group classes, whether yoga, circuit training, boxing or dance, are still off the table.

When are gym classes coming back? 

Gyms and swimming pools in England have reopened today, but classes, steam rooms, saunas and other shared indoor facilities are reopening on May 17th. 

In Scotland gyms and leisure centres are reopening on April 26th, while in Wales, they reopening on May 3rd. It's unclear when Northern Ireland gyms will be opening as yet. So until these dates, it's still zoom classes, outdoor classes and running if you want to participate as a group of thirty or fewer. Outdoor sports, like golf and tennis, have already resumed.

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.