As the country’s 40,000-50,000 health and fitness clubs, gyms, and studios slowly but surely begin to reopen, you might be wondering what to expect. You might even be a little leery. If you’re like most gym-goers, while you’ve enjoyed your online workouts, you’re missing the variety, structure, motivation, and camaraderie that only your physical health club can provide.
Since most U.S. clubs were mandated to close in mid-March, club staff across the country have had at least 10 weeks to ramp up their cleaning and safety protocols. And, since businesses in Asia were hit first, and reopened earlier, clubs in the U.S. have benefited from and learned from a forward-look at gyms post-quarantine.
The global fitness industry recently received a boost in confidence in how safe facilities are with the release of a Norwegian study—held over two weeks—that showed no greater risk in contracting coronavirus after visiting a gym. And in the U.S., current contract tracing data in Arkansas, also covered over two weeks, furthers the conception that gyms are safe, revealing that only 0.3% of active cases in the state visited a gym.
Although the U.S. president included gyms in Phase 1 opening guidelines, all 50 states (and even more localized areas) set a time frame on when—and how—fitness facilities in their area can open. In almost all regions, club staff created safety plans, which were then shared with their regional authorities to receive the go-ahead to open.
To aid clubs in opening safely and thoughtfully, IHRSA developed a four-pronged framework for clubs to use as a reference when planning their opening protocols and working with their local health boards. The framework is available to help clubs mitigate risk and provide a safe and supportive place for physical activity.
So what does this look like?
· Social Distancing
· Employee and Member Training
Checking in to the club will probably look and feel a lot different. One of the first things you might notice is that the lobby furniture is gone. Many clubs have removed furniture from the entrance and socializing areas to alleviate lingering before and post classes to comply with distancing. Several clubs have gone touchless and are encouraging members to use a mobile app to check-in. Some clubs have taken the additional step of installing plexiglass barriers, especially those that check temperatures or do any other screening procedures.
Enhanced Cleaning Measures
Though news from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in May revealed that the virus “does not spread easily” from touching surfaces or objects, enhanced cleaning procedures of all surface areas factor heavily into club reopening plans.
Each reopening plan IHRSA looked at outlined how it will carry out intensive cleaning procedures. These opening plans describe new intense cleaning protocols and ensure adequate staffing and supplies to execute these enhanced efforts.
Social Distancing in the Club
Now that you’re more comfortable with the cleaning protocols and products, your next concern might be around social distancing. You know, the nearly universal term for keeping people at least 6 feet or 2 meters apart (CDC) to slow the spread of COVID-19.
To ensure members in general fitness areas are following social distancing protocols, clubs are abiding by the national and regional authorities.
Many clubs are encouraging employees working in the club to use a cloth face covering or mask. Masks help protect against the spread of coronavirus, and serve as an added measure of protection in light of new cleaning supplies and protocols. The CDC now recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” Cloth face coverings can add a layer of protection, given that COVID-19 can be transmitted by people who are showing mild or no symptoms and don’t know they are infected.