As we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to hear compelling stories from around the world that exemplify the resiliency of our industry. We are all facing extraordinary challenges and, as your partner, we wanted to share a series of industry examples from alliances and operators who are taking action to reverse government mandates to safely reopen and advocating for the health benefits of exercise.
In fact, new research from IHRSA validates the claims that gyms can operate safely, finding that of more than 49.4 million visits to 2,873 health clubs, only 0.0023 percent tested positive for COVID-19 in the past three months. This means that gyms nationwide have robust COVID-19 safety measures in place and that positive cases are not originating in gyms.
We hope the examples below can serve as resources and inspiration as you engage with your partners and government officials to ensure gyms are part of the solution going forward.
Gyms in Catalonia (Spain) win legal fight to reopen
After COVID-19 cases spiked in late July, the Generalitat government ordered the closure of all gyms and sports centers. Hundreds of gym owners, employees and sports legends held protests in front of the local government building. They argued that there have been no infections in gyms, and that they have made significant investments to follow mandated safety measures. On the same day, Barcelona’s Commissioner of Sport sent two letters of complaint to the Generalitat asking for gyms to be reopened. He stated that all gyms have complied with the mandated health and safety measures, so a renewed closure would only be accepted if new guidelines were published. He added that gyms support physical and mental health for people of all ages in the community. Gyms, studio operators and indoor sport facilities also took their case to reopen to the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (SCJC), which backed their claim. Fitness facilities have now been able to reopen in the region, provided all existing social distancing and hygiene measures are adhered to.
New study shows gyms in England are successfully controlling COVID-19
In a new study, ukactive collected data from over 1,300 fitness facilities to analyze the prevalence of the virus within the sector, from its reopening on July 25 to Aug. 16. The results show there have been over eight million visits from members since reopening, and during this time only 17 people have reported testing positive with COVID-19 – equating to an estimated 0.020 cases for every 10,000 visits. In addition, only nine cases were reported among facility staff members. The results indicate that gyms are well positioned to capture contact tracing data and underscores the low prevalence of the virus in these facilities.
Norwegian study found that there is no threat of increased COVID-19 spread at gyms during a trial period that was conducted during the lockdown in Norway.
Recent research out of Norway has found that fitness facilities are at no higher risk of spreading COVID-19 as long as proper hygiene and social distancing measures are followed. The study, funded by the government, recently featured in an article on Healthclubmanagement.co.uk, aimed to find out whether gyms were at an increased risk of spreading the virus. The study concluded that there is no threat of increased COVID-19 spread at fitness facilities, even when intensive training takes place. The study found no cases of COVID-19 were transmitted due to gym use during the two weeks of a trial.
United States Examples
New study suggests exercise may boost your immune response
Athletes may gain greater immunity from a flu shot than people who are less active, according to two new complementary studies of exercise and vaccinations. The two studies, which involved the same group of elite athletes, suggest that intense training amplifies the body’s vaccine response, a finding with particular relevance now, as the flu season looms and scientists work to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Although these studies focused on elite athletes, Dr. Sester believes even casual recreational athletes are likely to have better flu-vaccine responses than sedentary people. Likewise, she expects high fitness should improve immune responses to other vaccines, including, potentially, a COVID-19 shot.
Arizona court rules gyms should have opportunity to reopen
Following a surge in COVID-19 cases in late June, Arizona Gov. Ducey extended executive orders that closed gyms, movie theaters and bars until at least August 10th. Mountainside Fitness and EōS Fitness filed a lawsuit against Gov. Ducey, arguing that they should be allowed to reopen because they have implemented required safety measures, including masks, social distancing and reduced capacity. On August 3rd the Executive Director of the Arizona Public Health Association testified on behalf of the health clubs saying that gyms should not fall within the same category as bars and restaurants because of the health benefits they provide to the community. On August 4th, a judge ruled that Gov. Ducey’s executive order closing fitness centers violated procedural due process. The ruling stated that fitness centers must be given guidelines to reopen safely and must be allowed to apply for approval to reopen. Despite a challenging approval process, Arizona gyms, bars and theaters were allowed to reopen on August 27th.
Over 1,500 New York gym owners file class-action lawsuit to reopen
Over 1,500 New York state gym owners, including 500 located in NYC, filed a class action lawsuit against Gov. Cuomo, New York state, and the state attorney general in an attempt to force the state to allow them to reopen. The New York Fitness Coalition (NYFC) sent a proposal to Gov. Cuomo outlining safety measures that could be put in place as a standard for the fitness industry’s reopening. Those standards include temperature scans, limiting capacity, using individual equipment, testing protocols and more. Crunch Fitness encouraged NY members to participate in a letter-writing and social media campaign via IHRSA to push Gov. Cuomo to reopen gyms in the state. The call to action was met with both positive and some negative feedback from members. On August 31st, the New York City Health Department announced it will conduct virtual inspections on gyms before they open on Sept. 2 to expedite the process. Gyms opening in other NY regions as of Aug. 24 can do so only at 33% capacity with masks required. However, no plan is in place to reopen NYC boutique fitness studios. A group of studio owners is demanding that Mayor de Blasio allow them to reopen, saying gender bias is their primary concern as most are owned by women. The Boutique Fitness Alliance staged a protest on August 24th in front a Manhattan studio location, featuring the owners of several studios as well as Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
California Fitness Alliances (CFA) announces Industry Association Advisory Board
CFA has created an Industry Association Advisory Board in addition to its Advisory Board panel. Doris Thews, CEO of Team Thews Fitness Consulting, Amy Thompson from IDEA Health and Fitness Association, and Josh Leve from the Association of Fitness Studios are spearheading the Industry Association Advisory Board, which will bring a holistic perspective to the cause – supporting the 180,000 employees and millions of members of California’s gyms, health clubs and studios as CFA urges Gov. Newsom to safely reopen gyms in California. On August 28th, California announced that it would take a tiered approach to reopening businesses for indoor operations. Los Angeles and Sacramento county gyms must continue to operate outdoors, but counties in the second tier can open at 10% capacity indoors.
Michigan Fitness Club Association (MFCA) launches reopening campaign
Michigan gyms have been closed by Gov. Whitmer’s executive order for nearly six months, and it is now one of only four states that has not reopened gyms statewide. MFCA is calling for gyms to reopen with its “Work It Out” campaign, stating that gyms do not contribute to the spread of COVID-19 and citing supporting data. On September 3rd, Gov. Whitmer signed two executive orders that will allow all Michigan gyms and pools to reopen on September 9th. All gyms must enforce strict safety measures, including operating at 25 percent capacity, required masks, social distancing, and readily available equipment-cleaning products.
Washington Fitness Alliance (WFA) works to revise fitness facility guidelines
Over 260 studios, fitness centers, gyms and health clubs around the state have joined WFA in an effort to loosen Gov. Inslee’s guidelines inhibiting indoor fitness. Their goal is to get recognized as part of the solution, revise the current requirement of roughly 300 square feet per person, and gain independence from being grouped with bars and restaurants in the phased reopening. In a letter from WFA, they argue that people rely on gyms to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, and that check-in data collected from gyms shows that positive COVID-19 cases have not been contracted from gyms.