Gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools have been shut for over two months, leaving many people without their favourite forms of exercise.
And going to the gym is the number one physical activity the British public is missing most, according to new research by Sport England.
Last week, a clip of a reopened Hong Kong gym with partitions between machines was widely shared on social media, with people in the UK speculating on what their ‘new normal’ gym workout might look like.
BBC Sport spoke to Huw Edwards, chief executive of non-profit organisation UK Active, about the key changes people will notice.
“The individual operators will make decisions, but as it currently stands it [screens between machines] is not something that UK Active has been recommending,” said Edwards.
“It will feel different, lots of visibility in terms of signage, management of flows of people coming in and out of the facilities, lots of sanitisation options for individuals.”
Many of us are now used to following arrows and two-metre floor spacers in the supermarkets – and Edwards says equipment will be spaced out or closed off to enforce similar restrictions.
Edwards said that the model in Switzerland, where gyms have reopened in the past 10 days with about 70% capacity, is “very similar to the one which we are recommending to government”.
There will also be no towels allowed on gym floors at first.
Shorter classes and longer breaks
To keep the numbers down in changing rooms, classes are likely to be shortened and breaks between them lengthened.
The number of people in a class may also be reduced, and there could be markings on the floor to ensure social distancing is maintained.
“You wouldn’t have that level of proximity in studios as you would have seen prior to the Covid-19 crisis, the dynamic within the studio will change,” said Edwards.
Who goes first?
Some people may be allowed to return to gyms and pools sooner than others.
The UK Active guidance says “operators may want to consider additional steps for any clientele over 70/with underlying health conditions”.
Edwards said this was a “major issue” to be discussed because of the “importance of both the physical and mental stimulation”.
“We know that the 55+, 60+, 70+ utilise swimming pools a lot in the context of our facilities so we will have those practical conversations.”
What about socially distanced swimming?
Swimming pools will face strict restrictions on social distancing, much like gym floors.
The framework from UK Active says that “maximum bather loads are based on one bather per three metres”, so expect to see a limit on the number of people using a pool at any one time.
Only one parent or carer will be able to supervise their child during swimming activities, and saunas and steam rooms will only open if social distancing can be followed.
Different peak times?
Gyms have traditionally seen a peak in the morning, at about 08:00, followed by an early evening peak about 18:00.
But Edwards says there is a sense that this could change as people’s working patterns change following coronavirus – again similar to supermarket shopping habits.
It won’t be before 4 July that gyms can reopen in England, but this is significantly earlier than the original suggestion that it might not be until October.
A ‘roadmap’ looking six months ahead is due to be published by UK Active, which should give a clearer idea of the plan.
Edwards said that gyms will be in close contact with members and staff members to educate them on the changes being made.
“Firstly we want them to know that they are going to be as safe as they possibly can be, and to be reassured about what they’re walking into,” he said.