Spring 2021 Covid-19 Road Map — [David Mundell in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 6:39 pm on 22nd March 2021.

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Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Labour/Co-operative, Vauxhall 6:39 pm, 22nd March 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell. I thank Nick Fletcher for securing this important and timely debate. Over 1,000 of my constituents signed the e-petition to open gyms first as we come out of lockdown. Our gyms and leisure centres make it possible for people to exercise in a variety of ways all year round, regardless of the weather. Here in my constituency, we have facilities to meet everyone’s needs, from swimming or spin classes, to treadmills and indoor climbing walls. Like many other parents and carers, I am very much looking forward to when the soft play centres across many of our leisure centres open up again.

These facilities provide the physical space for people to exercise. Most of us here in central London live in small flats shared with many others. We do not have room to jump around or install a smart bike or rowing machine, let alone have the money to afford one. And not everyone feels comfortable or safe exercising outside, especially during the long winter months.

As businesses, our gyms have been hit hard financially. I was contacted by a small independent gym in Clapham that was struggling to get the financial support it needed. It came to me for help in accessing the bounce back loan scheme, having lost income from cancelled memberships and classes. It did manage to get the loan eventually, but that is typical of how many local gyms have struggled this past year.

I was able to visit another small independent gym, F45, in Brixton, in the run-up to Small Business Saturday on 5 December last year. The owner highlighted to me the challenges he was facing with rental payments due to the loss of income from membership fees and cancelled classes. He also highlighted the success in moving some of the more popular classes online to keep in touch with regular members.

Everyone knows that exercise is essential for our mental and physical health. We know that covid is more serious for people who are overweight and unfit. In my constituency, air quality is a big issue, and with covid being a respiratory disease it is even more important that we get people out and about exercising. So I urge the Minister to recognise the important role that these facilities play in helping people to stay fit and healthy, and to look at all additional support to help them as we come out of this lockdown.