Active Leeds, the group that operates council-run gyms in and around the city, has limited the time that under 16s can visit their gyms to between 3pm and 5.30pm on weekdays. The group has said that weekend times for under 16s will vary from gym to gym.
Active Leeds issued an update to users stating that it had made the decision due to “capacity issues” after a larger number of young people signed up post-Covid. It said that this resulted in staff “not being able to provide the necessary support”.
One father of a 14-year-old boy who uses the facilities at Holt Park Active “three or four times a week” said that his son was “devastated” when he found out the news after visiting the gym for a workout on Friday and being turned away.
He said: “He used to go first thing in the morning before school but now he can’t.
"It’s the school holidays and he’s just twiddling his thumbs because he can’t go until later.”
The father, who asked not to be identified, said that neither he nor his son had been informed of the change and felt that it was “discriminating” against the younger gym users.
He added: “My son has told me that you often get groups of three or four youngsters spotting each other and so you probably get some adult members thinking ‘these kids are hogging the machines’. But that’s part of going to the gym and if you don’t want to wait you just need to ask.
"It’s a kick in the teeth for junior members. I have got a very upset lad now whose health and fitness is going to suffer.
"I’ve spoken to other parents and they’re equally baffled.”
He added that the new timing restrictions meant that most under 16 users of the gym were going go there at the same time, saying: “My son went bang on 3pm the other day and said it was crammed with people
"It seems like a ridiculous decision to me.
"The social aspect is brilliant, it helps them develop independence and helps with their fitness.”
A spokesperson for Leeds City Council said: “The priority in all Active Leeds venues is to ensure all of our gym users can use the facilities safely with the appropriate levels of staffing support in place. In line with national industry standards, anyone under the age of 16 must be supervised and these changes ensure that support can be provided without impacting on other gym users.
“Active Leeds is committed to helping young people be both active and safe, with dedicated new sessions for under-16s having been introduced. These changes only affect those aged 13 to 15, as junior members 16 and over can still access gyms outside of the specified hours at any time when the gym is open. Those aged 13 to 15 are also still able to use gyms at any time when the gym is open, providing they are supervised by someone over the age of 18.”