Never on Sunday ban for gyms in Greece

Dimitris Rotsos is typical of many workers who find gyms the answer to a sedentary lifestyle. «I work hard. I leave home every day at 7 a. m. and come back in the evening. I sit on a chair all day. I was 30 and I felt rusty. ‘This can’t go on, ‘ I thought, and I decided to snatch a little time for myself, to exercise I joined a gym and went at the weekend, till a few months ago when they told us the gym would be closed on Sundays, because of the law.» Law 221 of October 13, 2006 stipulates that gyms may operate from 6 a. m. to midnight during the week, 6 a. m. to 10 p. m. on Saturday, and must close Sunday. «It’s like saying you can eat and drink, but, heaven forbid, you must not exercise on Sunday,» an executive at a leading Athens gym who wished to remain anonymous told Kathimerini. While the Panhellenic League of Gyms (PASYGY) and the Association of Athens Gym Owners (SIGA), supports the measure, some owners told Kathimerini that they oppose it because it harms business. In fact some gyms have been opening surreptitiously on Sunday for certain clients. Competition is fierce among large gyms, some of which have different permits that do not come under the new regulation. PASYGY secretary Doros Kleovoulou said the league had requested the measure «because staff needed a day of rest.» He explained that customers have plenty of opportunity to use the gym since they were open 18 hours a day. He said that only 8 percent of clients made use of gym facilities on Sunday. Some claim the measure was an attempt by certain gym owners to trim costs by avoiding 175 percent overtime payments for Sundays. Whatever the reason, the effects are apparent. Apart from instructors losing a considerable part of their income, gyms had fewer enrollments this year. «For most clients the ban acted as a deterrent. Most of our customers complain that Sunday is their only free day. And some gyms open illegally on Sunday, which is unfair competition,» said Sofia Sotiriou, manager of Ladies Gym. Some gym chain executives favor Sunday opening. «Why would we want to close when the staff take it in turn to work five days and those who work on Sundays get paid more?» asked Body Scape’s public relations officer Nana Papavassileiou. Kleovoulou sees it differently. «The measure has had no repercussions at all on our businesses. Besides, it’s been scientifically proven that we shouldn’t exercise every day.» Fitness fanatics miss workouts on their day off and restriction deters potential customers Sunday is precious for the average worker, Eythimios Persidis, manager of the cybergym. gr website and a former gym owner told Kathimerini. «They are under pressure for time from morning to night and are lucky if they get to exercise twice a week. Everyone knows that twice a week is not enough. They’ll just stop altogether. That’s what this law has done.» At first gym-goers were perplexed by the new law, then they were annoyed. Not everyone is in a position to work out during the week so they catch up at the weekend. Lefteris K. is a fitness fanatic. He spends hours in the weights room. «I work out every day, including Sunday. I’m angry about the ban because it’s a relaxing day for me and for most people, when we could work out free of pressure,» he said. «I don’t get it,» commented Stefanos Miroglou, who works at a private firm. «Why do cinemas open? Don’t people work there?» He argued that the state, having closed gyms on Sunday, should offer alternatives, such as bicycle paths or large parks for jogging. Dina Ioakemidou says the gym is not just a way of relaxing but a way of life. «For most people with rigid working hours it’s a problem not being able to exercise on Sunday. And even more for working mothers who can get a little free time on Sunday.» Some potential customers are completely put off by the ban. As Angelos Papatolis, who works at a private company, told Kathimerini: «I work all week, usually till late. So I thought of going to gym Saturday and Sunday. Now I see there’s no point in signing up just to go once a week. It’s a shame to waste so much money.» A search on the Internet shows that most European Union countries and the United States allow gyms to open on Sunday. Times differ from country to country. In Japan, for example, gyms open for a few hours on Sunday while in France they open for eight hours. In most countries large gym chains open 24/7. In places like Ireland, small gyms attract customers by opening around the clock. PASYGY has done its research elsewhere, apparently, because it told Kathimerini, «As far as we know, gyms close Sunday in most EU countries.»