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Gyms emphasise hygiene practices but look for business support
Facing up to fears over the potential spread of the Coronavirus, Australia's fitness clubs are emphasising their hygiene practices to members and users.
However, with patronage declining as people enact different interpretations of 'social distancing', they are having to be flexible with member suspensions, while also looking to governments for business support and seeking similar flexibility from the landlords of many premises.
Advice over the past day from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck and Fitness Australia Chief Executive Barrie Elvish is that gyms, indoor fitness centres and swimming pools are not required to close at this time providing they meet these requirements for social distancing and hand hygiene.
This runs contrary to actions being taken by many local authorities who are closing facilities but backs the actions of fitness club owners and managers who have been adopting high standards of cleanliness and hygiene in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Plus Fitness Director John Fuller said the group is taking a "sensible" approach to tackle the spread of Coronavirus, telling 10 daily "we see it as just being any other virus ... we are just increasing awareness without feeding into the hype."
Plus Fitness has urged franchisees to increase staff presence on gym floors, regularly cleaning and sanitising equipment while ensuring advice posters asking members to be considerate of other gym users by following basic hygiene standards have been placed in high traffic areas in their gyms and on social media.
Fuller suggested that maintaining a healthy lifestyle better-equipped people to recover from the virus if they were to contract it, adding "the people that come to the gym are usually strong and healthy with a good immune system.
Fitness First has also been emphasising the cleaning and hygiene regime in its clubs, with additional hand sanitisers provided to all members and staff, while employees are being educated and reminded on hygiene and cleanliness best practices.
For those who do want to suspend their memberships, many agreements allow members to do just that.
A spokesperson from Anytime Fitness told Lifehacker Australia its membership agreement allowed members to suspend memberships for up to three months without needing to provide a reason.
Virgin Active has a similar set of clauses in its membership agreement for membership "freezes" of up to 12 weeks while Jetts membership holds there are limited to eight weeks per year if the club is notified in writing.
Fitness First also allows up to eight weeks of membership suspension per year although there is a "time freeze fee for all memberships".
In a statement, Fitness First told Lifehacker Australia "Fitness First acknowledges the current situation with regards to Coronavirus and the health and safety of our members is our main priority.
"We understand the need to take preventative measures to reduce further illness during this time. We fully support any members' decision to freeze their membership and have therefore updated our Time Freeze policy in line with this."
Explaining measures she has introduced at Genesis Health and Fitness Ballarat, franchisee Mel Tempest, presenter of the Gym Owners' Fitness Business Podcast, states “as of today, we are offering all of our members suspension options.”
On hygiene she adds “we are also turning away our members if they don’t come into the club with a towel or selling them a towel at reception.
“All of our staff are cleaning four to five times a day and we are also encouraging our members to participate in that.”
With gym owners among many retail tenants fearing they will struggle with payments if their income dips, Australasian Leisure Management is aware of many gyms looking for rent relief or rent reductions from landlords.
In addition, Fitness Australia has called for the Federal Government Economic Stimulus Package - announced last week - to be expanded to support the cash flow of sole traders.
Tempest adds how Genesis Fitness is helping its franchisees, stating “they are staging franchisee teleconferences every 48 hours and have put in strong policies to support its franchisees.
“This includes educating franchisees on the Federal Government’s stimulus package and encouraging all franchisees to be proactive in their clubs.”
Australasian Leisure Management has also learned of a serious of thefts in gyms in metropolitan areas in recent months, an issue it is looking in to.
During current panic buying, we have become aware that in last week at the Zap Fitness 24/7 Glen Osmond in South Australia it was discovered that all the toilet paper had apparently been stolen from the toilets and the cupboards.
A source advised "because there was none in the toilets I suspect that the 'removalist' was a gym-goer who found a cheap way to get stock."
Images: Push up (top, courtesy of Fitness Australia), a notice to Plus Fitness members has been placed in their gyms (middle, courtest of Plus Fitness) and Federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck with Fitness Australia Chief Executive Barrie Elvish (below).
19th March 2020 - Australasian Leisure Management and the Coronavirus crisis
18th March 2020 - Fitness Australia’s Barrie Elvish says ‘gyms do not need to close’
18th March 2020 - City of Greater Geelong closes facilities in Coronavirus response
17th March 2020 - Reed Exhibitions announce postponement of 2020 Fitness Show Sydney
17th March 2020 - Fitness First highlights gym hygiene measures
11th March 2020 - Fitness Australia releases advice on Coronavirus
24th February 2020 - Finalists announced for 2020 Australian Fitness Awards
17th February 2020 - Plus Fitness opens first Canberra gym
9th September 2019 - Plus Fitness growth continues with Australian and international openings
9th August 2019 - Virgin Active opening four new clubs in Sydney
10th April 2019 - Rebranded Genesis Health and Fitness club operational in Ballarat
6th September 2017 - Jetts Fitness quietly passes 10 year operational milestone
18th September 2017 - Genesis Fitness reaches 20 years of operations
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