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Fitness Australia says gyms can safely reopen within strict framework

Fitness Australia says gyms can safely reopen within strict framework
April 23, 2020

With Australia’s Coronavirus restrictions set to be eased over coming weeks, Fitness Australia has advised that gyms and exercise facilities can be among the first sectors of the economy to reopen industry - with a robust re-opening framework developed to ensure the health and safety of members and employees.

Since gyms closed a month ago, Fitness Australia has been working with government authorities, industry stakeholders and international counterparts, including UK Active, the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), the Exercise Association of New Zealand (ExerciseNZ) and the World Health Organization (WHO), to develop a comprehensive framework for the safe reopening of gyms.

Advising that the industry is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of everyone so gyms can reopen sooner rather than later as reported, Fitness Australia Chief Executive, Barrie Elvish today advised “the fitness industry, like all Australians, want to ensure there is no further spread of COVID-19 as restrictions are slowly eased back. However, there’s no reason why gyms can’t be one of the first sectors to reopen.

“We believe gyms can safely reopen with social distancing and hygiene requirements in place, which is why we have prepared a strict reopening framework for all fitness facilities and personal trainers.

“Our framework includes a range of guidelines from temperature checking on arrival, high frequency cleaning and sanitation, spacing of equipment through to PPE for employees and members, reduced capacity for classes and outdoor fitness considerations.

“Unlike other establishments such as bars, restaurants and retail outlets, gyms also have a key advantage when it comes to instant contact tracking, with all members having to swipe in and out or book in for a class. Should it be necessary, no other industry has the ability to provide to health authorities this real time data.

“The industry is committed and onboard to do whatever is needed to reopen. We all want to ensure gym members and employees have the peace of mind to safely return to the gym, do a workout or take part in a group glass.”

Elvish said the role exercise plays in our overall health and mental wellbeing cannot be underestimated and it will become more apparent as restrictions are eased back, adding “gyms and the broader fitness industry will have a vital role in ensuring the ongoing health and wellbeing of Australians during and following COVID-19.

“During the important phase of isolation, there has been a drastic increase in demand for mental health services such as Lifeline and Beyond Blue as well as a steep increase in alcohol consumption and online gambling.

“This coupled with people being less active has the potential to not only affect the long-term health of our whole community but also future Health Budget outlays.

“Exercise and a regular fitness routine play a very important role in maintaining an individual’s immune system and their overall physical and mental health.”

While the reopening of gyms has been included in Phase 1 of the USA’s Reopening Plan, caution has been urged the reopening of fitness facilities

Associate Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott, an expert in health security with the University of Sydney who is a member of the Federal Government advisory panel tasked with assessing the benefits and risks of rolling back various social restrictions, has cautioned against the reopning of gyms, advising that any loosening of rules will be highly dependent on the public adhering to social distancing measures.

As reported by The Age, Professor Kamradt-Scott said that while parks, beaches, restaurants and professional sporting competitions could be among the first measures to be reversed, along with the removal of limits on the size of public gatherings, the survival of COVID-19 on stainless steel for up to 72 hours makes gyms and their equipment potent virus spreaders.

Maximilian de Courten, a global health expert with Victoria University and former WHO staff member, said reducing the two-person gathering limit would be a logical starting point, telling The Age "we might go to five people, then to 10."

Speaking to Australasian Leisure Management yesterday, ExerciseNZ Chief Executive Richard Beddie suggested than gyms in New Zealand could open when that nation moves to ‘Level Two’ restrictions.

New Zealand is scheduled to move from Level Four to Level Three restrictions next week.

Images: Infinite Cycle (top) and Barrie Elvish (below).

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