How gym closures are leaving Sheffield women questioning whether to put their mental health or safety first

As gyms are forced to close once again, Sheffield women have spoken out about how this has left them wondering what to put first - their mental health or safety.

Friday, 6th November 2020, 7:00 am

Many people go to the gym for physical exercise but a lot of people describe it as an activity which helps their mental health too.

Without access to a gym, it has left people needing to find alternative ways to exercise and for some women, they believe it is a choice that may be at the detriment of their health and safety.

Olivia Woods said: “For me, exercise is kind of vital for my mental health. The only time I can do it is after I’ve finished work, which is usually some time after 5pm. With the clocks going back, it gets dark outside quickly.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Without access to a gym, it has left people needing to find alternative ways to exercise and for some women, they believe it is a choice that may be at the detriment of their health and safety.

“Just the other week, a woman was assaulted and it wasn’t even that late - that makes me scared to go out alone. You don’t know who’s lurking round the corner.

“People might say, oh just exercise at home, but I live in a tiny flat so it’s impossible. With working from home too, I get sick of seeing the same four walls. I used to be able to get some respite from that by going to the gym but now they’re closed again.

“If I want to exercise then I feel I can’t do so without looking over my shoulder all the time. Alternatively I have to let my mental health suffer for a bit until gyms reopen.”

Megan Radford said: “Men have it easy because they can just go for a run or whatever without having to really think about safety necessarily.

“Exercise is important for my mental health and without gyms, the alternative is doing it outside in the park as I don’t have a garden. I don’t live near friends or family so have no one to exercise with but where I live feels relatively safe going out alone. Though that doesn’t mean I don’t still have to think about what route I’m going to take, whether they’re well lit areas, etc, and I can’t really enjoy my music properly while I exercise with having to keep one ear open.”

Jess Holmes, added: “I think you can’t let lockdown ruin your mental health just because you can’t go to the gym.

“Why not see if you can talk with your employer about changing your hours slightly so you can go out and exercise a little earlier, after all, poor mental health will just make you less productive at work.

“A lot of people also use running apps these days too, which people often post to their social media. People should be a little more careful in that respect as anyone can see where you might usually run - that’s making you a risk without knowing it.

“Being a woman, it’s just about being more careful and aware.”

According to current Government guidelines, you can exercise with your household or one other person in a public outdoor space.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.