More people working out at gyms than before the pandemic

People working out at Bodyfit Training's Orchard studio on July 8, 2022. ST PHOTO: EUGENE GOH

SINGAPORE- More than two years after the Covid-19 pandemic was declared in 2020 and gyms and fitness studios here took a hit due to restrictions, the industry is finally starting to show a picture of health.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, statutory board Sport Singapore (SportSG) said that more than 238,600 people utilised its 26 ActiveSG gyms in May. This is a 6 per cent rise compared with the same month in 2019, before the pandemic.

There has also been a similar increase in participation in programmes at the ActiveSG Sport Centres, where more than 108,400 members took part in activities such as zumba and yoga in May - a 16 per cent increase compared with the same period in May 2019.

SportSG, which has 19 sport centres running facilities in more than 30 locations, added that bookings and the number of users at its basketball and badminton courts and swimming pools have also increased.

The latest figures are an indication that more people here are engaging in physical activities after what has been a turbulent two years for the fitness industry in Singapore.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, strenuous indoor sports and exercise classes, which required participants to take their masks off, were halted.

Gym and fitness studio owners suffered economic losses during the period, which led to SportSG pledging support in May last year in the form of $18 million to help businesses in the sports and fitness industry defray operating costs.

Restrictions were then eased along the way and in April's updated safe management measures (SMMs), safe distancing was no longer required between individuals or between groups, while group size limits were lifted.

But not everything is back to what it was pre-Covid-19. When ST visited the Toa Payoh ActiveSG gym, users were being reminded to don their masks when moving between stations.

SportSG added that its staff members have been ensuring that SMMs, such as mask-wearing indoors, are being adhered to, and will continue to do so for the safety of its guests.

Mr Nicholas Tan, 28, a regular of the Anytime Fitness Greenwich V branch, said that he is pleased to see the gym buzzing again.

Mr Tan, who works in the automobile industry, said: "In the past few months, the number of users in the gym has gone up. The difference from before is that I have noticed a lot more people using their own towels, masking up and cleaning after they use the stations. People are taking hygiene more seriously."

The same trend of a boom in users has been observed in private gyms and fitness studios.

Mr John Suriya, 29, a head coach at Thrive Fitness - a personal training service - has seen his number of clients double to 28 since the start of the year, when restrictions were lifted.

Mr Suriya said: "The pandemic has meant that people had more time for themselves and now more people realise the importance of keeping fit. There is also increased awareness of the benefits of working out."

He also pointed to the revised set of the Singapore Physical Activity Guidelines launched by SportSG and the Health Promotion Board last month. The guidelines call for adults to accumulate 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week.

"More people are taking health into serious consideration. With latest government guidelines, people are becoming more conscious and have realised that they need to incorporate some form of exercise into their daily lives. That is why there is now a greater demand for fitness classes and services all around," said Mr Suriya.

People working out at the ActiveSG gym in Toa Payoh on July 8, 2022. Over 238,600 people utilised the 26 ActiveSG gyms in May. ST PHOTO: EUGENE GOH

The demand for classes has seen Mr Dane Kapoor, 34, and his wife Ashleigh Appel, who is in her 30s, open up two more fitness studios since the pandemic hit. They founded the first Bodyfit Training (BFT) studio in 2019 at Tanjong Pagar before opening another studio in Orchard in April last year.

Two months ago, they opened BFT Bukit Timah and 30 per cent more people signed up for membership at its opening, compared with the two other outlets.

Mr Kapoor said: "Classes now are being run as they were pre-pandemic but the wiping and cleaning after each session are here to stay.

"The fitness industry suffered with the Covid-19 restrictions. It was hard for most of us to operate as a business but now we are all returning to normalcy. We have had a 15 to 20 per cent growth in numbers across the studios."

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Mr Koh See Khiang, 45, owner of five Anytime Fitness franchises here, said that the number of visits now is similar to that of pre-pandemic levels. He said that the industry cannot rest on its laurels and added that he and his staff continue to take precautions.

He has installed air purifiers at his studios, while equipment has been rearranged to ensure there is less contact between members.

Mr Koh said: "There is definitely more people interested in wanting to work out. That is good to see but there are still challenges ahead with the state of the economy, tight labour market and a tough business environment, especially with so many different options now for people to work out at beyond just the gym.

"But as a business owner, I am happy that we have made it through what seems to be the worst. I am cautiously optimistic."

More engaging in physical activities

Sport Singapore said there has been an increase in sport participation at its 19 ActiveSG Sport Centres, which run facilities in over 30 locations islandwide.

Badminton

More than 78,700 bookings in May this year at ActiveSG Sport Halls, a 19 per cent increase compared with May 2019, before the pandemic hit. Badminton courts were also being utilised 94 per cent of the time compared with a utilisation rate of 81 per cent in May 2019.

Basketball

A 7 per cent increase in bookings in May this year compared with the same month in 2019. There were about 1,600 bookings of basketball courts compared with about 1,500 bookings in May 2019.

Swimming pools

In May this year, ActiveSG's 25 swimming pools recorded an average attendance of about 23,000 guests on each weekend, a 2 per cent increase from the attendance recorded in the same period of May 2019.

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