With people around the world changing their daily habits as the Coronavirus spreads, fitness centres and gyms are having to deal with member fears that their facilities may be places where they can contract Coronavirus.
Facing the possibility that members may stop using facilities and even suspend or end their memberships, facilities are moving to reassure members over the measures they take to ensure optimum levels of hygiene and are proactively advising of their cleaning regimes.
Australasian Leisure Management is aware of two major Australian chains - who have asked not to be named - who have sent emails to members about the outbreak, including details on their plans for cleaning and sanitising equipment, surfaces and other areas, along with requests that members stay away from their facilities if the member is feeling unwell.
Bluefit, managers of the Hurstville Aquatic Leisure Centre in southern Sydney, have also posted a message online that states “we take our customer’s health very seriously”, advising users and members that “we seek your support in keeping all members of our community safe”.
The statement specifically advises “any patrons that have returned from China more than 14 days ago and are showing no symptoms are able to return to the facility.
“If anyone in your family is unwell and experiencing flu-symptoms, we ask that you do not attend the centre and should seek medical attention as soon as possible.”
USA Today has also reported similar moves by gyms in the USA, including the Equinox, SoulCycle, Flywheel, 305 Fitness and Barry’s Bootcamp chains.
The New York Times reported David Carney, the US-based President of Orangetheory Fitness, listing precautions the group is taking in an email, advising “wipe down your equipment after every block, and don’t hesitate to request a new wipe whenever you need to.”
Adam Zeitsiff, the US-based President and Chief Executive of Gold’s Gym told Men’s Health in a statement “in light of the current health concerns we are stepping up those efforts in each of our gyms and we will continue to watch the situation very closely.
“Should it worsen, we will take direction from public health officials and take whatever actions are required in order to protect our members, our team members and the general public.”
With the World Health Organization advising that more than 100,000 people around the world have contracted the Coronavirus, and with that number expected to grow, fitness facilities are following the lead of public health officials.
While scientists are still assessing how the virus spreads but have provided some guidance on how it seems to be transmitted. A study of other Coronaviruses found they remained on metal, glass and plastic for two hours to nine days.
It is also understood that sweat cannot transmit the virus.
As a result, additional steps facilities are taking include disinfecting all club areas with a hospital-grade solution several times a day, reminding members and users to stay home if they are sick and asking instructors to eliminate skin-to-skin contact, like hands-on adjustments during yoga.
As for the risks of using facilities, TIME has reported that gymgoers do not to be specifically worried about going to exercise facilities, quoting Dr Paul Sax, Medical Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts as stating “the gym is not a place that’s necessarily riskier than other communal areas.
“I wouldn’t say there’s anything particular about people sweating that makes them more contagious.”
Overall, as reported by the New York Times, there’s a lower risk of picking up the Coronavirus at a gym than at a church service, for example, with Dr David Thomas, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland, USA, citing that, by comparison, church services may include shaking hands and being in closer proximity to people.
Dr Thomas advised that while sweat cannot transmit the virus but high-contact surfaces, such as barbells, can pose a problem.
Referencing objects such as handles and doorknobs, Dr Thomas stated that they are “disproportionally affected by hands, and those are the surfaces most likely to have viruses for that reason.”
It is also worth highlighting that during the outbreak, fitness facilities would do well to remind members of a fundamental piece of gym etiquette - to wipe down equipment after use.
IHRSA 2020 withdrawls
It has also been reported that major exhibitors Life Fitness, Precor, Keiser and Freemotion have withdrawn from the 2020 International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association exhibition, due to be held from 18th 21st March in San Diego, California, USA.
The companies are understood to have put a hold on travel due to concerns related to the Coronavirus, which would affect their attendance at the event.
Announcing their decision, Life Fitness advised “while we sincerely appreciate the additional steps IHRSA is taking to make the show safe for all attendees, the health and safety of our employees and their families will always be our top priority. We are exploring alternative ways to bring our brand and product experiences to our customers at another time this year."
In addition to the cancellation by these vendors, fitness club operators including Retro Fitness, World Gym and WellBiz have put restrictions on company travel, meaning their employees won’t be attending IHRSA.
On 4th March, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for the state, with the proclamation aimed at preparing communities and the health care system should the Coronavirus spread more broadly.
Images used for illustrative purposes only.
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