Although essential to Britain’s economy and to people’s health, fitness trainers have been hugely neglected by the government and the media during Covid.

The fitness industry encourages and helps clients to obtain a healthy lifestyle, drastically reducing obesity levels. Moreover, this sector is a large constituent of the UK’s economy. In the UK, according to Statista, there are 69,000 registered fitness instructors, who contribute £684 million to Britain’s economy, estimates IBIS World.

Like many other industries, the fitness sector has been devastated by Covid. During the first lockdown, trainers everywhere lost an enormous number of clients because gyms were shut down and people lost motivation to exercise at home.

Jess, an experienced group trainer at a gym in Bromley, recalls that at the beginning of lockdown she “was very concerned”, as she was “not eligible for any government support”, being a freelance fitness instructor. These feelings are also shared by Fernando, a self-employed personal trainer from Tower Hamlets, who remembers that he “went from doing over 40 sessions per week to only 15”. Because both trainers are independent workers, their income has not been supported by the government. The same anxiety and helplessness were also felt by gym-employed instructors at the time. For example, Matt, who works as a veteran trainer at a large fitness chain in Bromley, recollects that although he was on furlough, “not knowing when [he] would go back [to working] took its toll mentally”. Nigel, a specialist personal trainer in Canary Wharf, echoes these thoughts: “It was a scary time”.

As a result of a drastic loss of clients and thus income, trainers have had to try to find new clients online, which has proved quite challenging. For example, despite Fernando’s efforts, “many people were busier than usual, taking care of their kids”, and so were not able to attend online classes. Jess “invested in equipment to make sure [her] classes online could run as smoothly as possible”, but she discovered that there was a lot of competition online, “especially as there are so many free offerings from celebrity trainers and other instructors” on YouTube and other platforms.

However, all of them have managed to motivate their clients by “offering a variety of different classes and providing an enjoyable environment”, says Jess. Nigel feels “really proud” that he “kept a lot of [his] clients” and is still “giving them a good service”. Fernando further affirms that the clients who did continue, “maintained their shape or even improved”, proving that despite the difficult circumstances, trainers have continued to successfully provide clients with enjoyable classes and help them improve their health.

As for the future, Jess believes that “online workouts are the way forward, as they save time” – “by the time you’ve driven to the gym, you could’ve completed a workout” and as a result, “gyms will be negatively impacted permanently”.

Overall, the fitness industry has suffered a lot this year, and yet it has barely been covered by the media, which is a shame. If Nigel could talk to the government, he “would tell them [to] understand [trainers’ roles] in helping the general health of the public, obesity included”, as “this helps the NHS” by putting less unnecessary strain on them. Furthermore, when gyms re-open, Jess is “not sure all trainers will return, as many have set up their own businesses now”. Therefore, it is increasingly important for the government to help by providing more support to the health and fitness sector.