Fitness fans took part in more than 1m workouts in the first week after reopening in England, according to the UK’s largest gym chain, PureGym.

Reporting a 92% crash in annual profits after Covid lockdown restrictions forced the closure of its gyms for more than a third of 2020, the group said customers were keen to get back on their exercise bikes, with footfall rebounding to a level similar to the equivalent week in 2019.

PureGym reopened its 240 sites in England on 12 April, including 10 new locations, while tens of thousands of new members joined.

Gyms are scheduled to reopen in Scotland this month, followed by those in Wales, and Northern Ireland in early May. The group’s venues reopened in Switzerland on Monday and it expects to restart the treadmills in Denmark next month.

The group’s gyms were closed on average for 37% of 2020 as a result of lockdowns in the UK, Denmark and Switzerland. This caused its profit to crash to £11m, from £132m in 2019.

During months of extended closures, PureGym said it had focused on conserving cash and increasing its digital offering to members including pre-recorded online workouts and fitness classes. This also enabled it to retain 1.4 million members across the group during the pandemic, equivalent to 82% of its pre-Covid levels from December 2019.

The company’s app now allows contactless entry and exit for members and informs them about the gym’s capacity.

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“Member response and new joiners support our view that underlying demand for gyms is strong,” said Humphrey Cobbold, the chief executive of the PureGym Group.

“As health and wellness move further up the public agenda there will be strong demand for affordable, flexible fitness where people can use tens of thousands of pounds of equipment over the course of a workout and increasingly use technology to assist with their fitness goals.”

The company said it managed to prevent any redundancies as a result of the Covid crisis and intended to expand further after the pandemic, as it aimed to become Europe’s largest fitness provider.

This content first appear on the guardian

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