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Operator questions Fitness Australia’s 26th October reopening claim for Victorian gyms

Operator questions Fitness Australia’s 26th October reopening claim for Victorian gyms
September 18, 2020

While lobbying extensively for gyms in Victoria to be allowed to reopen as part of the state’s Coronavirus lockdown easing, Fitness Australia’s advice of 10th September that Melbourne gyms and fitness facilities will reopen from Monday 26th October has been questioned by industry operators.

Referring to Industry Restart Guidelines: Physical Recreation Indoor and Outdoor, published on Monday of this week (but no longer available as of today - Friday 18th September) Andrew Ward, Managing Director of Melbourne’s Push! Fitness Docklands in Melbourne has advised “contrary to the Fitness Australia release confirming Victorian gyms could open on 26/10, the most recent release from the Victorian state government confirms indoor gyms can only open from the 23/11 once Covid targets are met.”

Writing on social media, Ward commented “(this is) a disastrous result.

“Even worse, indoor fitness for regional areas are aligned with metro Melbourne and cannot open until 23rd November, still 10 weeks away.

“There is no logic and no reason for this stonewalling of the industry. Even Pubs opened today in regional Vic with restrictions, and gyms must remain closed?

“Where are all of our government partners in community health and wellbeing today?

“Fitness Australia need to re-clarify this for the industry and release a statement and maybe some kind of explanation as to what went wrong from their perspective.”

Class Action
On 3rd September, Fitness Australia also advised that a number of independent gym owners were intending to pursue a class action lawsuit against the Victorian Government over its lockdown measures keeping fitness facilities closed.

However, while no progress has been reported on the gyms’ class action, this week a Melbourne legal firm, Carbone Lawyers, filed a claim on behalf of workers who had lost income or suffered psychological damage due to strict social distancing laws. 

The managing partner, Tony Carbone, told Guardian Australia more than 100 plaintiffs had signed on prior to Wednesday this week.

Carbone advised “the office has been inundated … we have even fielded inquiries from people who are incarcerated, ringing and saying because of the second lockdown they have been locked in their rooms - the psychological damage that would cause.”

Fitness Australia’s open letter to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews
Fitness Australia Australia Chief Executive, Barrie Elvish has today written to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews as follows:

Dear Premier,

I have read with interest the VicHealth Coronavirus Victorian Wellbeing Impact Study and while there are some positive outcomes in terms of twenty five percent of respondents wanting to keep exercising, a similar number wanting to spend more time with their family and/or work from home and approximately one in ten wanting to maintain healthy lifestyle and/or socialise more, the overall impacts are overwhelmingly negative.

Of course, this is not surprising given the community anxiety and distress caused by COVID uncertainty and the imposed lifestyle restrictions; hopefully many of the indicators will see a rapid turnaround once life gets back to some form of normality.

Not surprisingly, the Report mentioned above highlights lockdown induced ‘high psychological distress and lower life satisfaction’. I can attest to these findings through the numerous emails and calls I have received from Victorian members of Fitness Australia deeply concerned not just with seeing their lifetime of hard work disappearing before their eyes, but also the impact on their employees, families and gym members. Many people are seriously distraught not just about their own situation but also have significant concerns for the wellbeing of their clients.

Over recent weeks I have made many comments on behalf of the fitness sector advocating for the safe reopening of health centres in Victoria sooner rather than later, as is the case in every other Australian state where the sector has demonstrated that it can operate in a COVID-safe environment and protect the health and wellbeing of their members.

However, I also want to put this through a personal lens.

Premier, I know from many public comments you have made in a pre-COVID world that you have a strong personal interest in mental health issues, and this is one I share with you deeply. This has come about not just through personal and professional experience with suicide but dealing with my own occasional Black Dog visits.

On the advice of a medical professional I started running forty years ago and now thousands of kilometres later, including marathons, half marathons, numerous ‘fun runs’ and now primarily Parkruns, I have successfully used exercise to manage my mental wellbeing. Five years ago, I supplemented running with resistance training at my local fitness centre and I know many other members attend for similar reasons. Yes, some people go to the gym to look good, and we see them on social media all the time, but many more go to feel good and although they may not have a huge number of Instagram followers the impact of exercise for them is much more important and long lasting.

For many people who experience mental wellbeing issues, exercise is their ‘drug’ of choice. It builds resilience, social connection and support, and provides the basis for a positive lifestyle. Exercise can take place in a variety of settings but for many their local fitness centre is their venue of choice.

World Mental Health day is on Saturday 10 October, on behalf of all of us who need regular physical activity please engage with me so that we can together work out suitable arrangements for all Victorian fitness centres and gyms to reopen in a safe and hygienic way by, or before, 26 October as per your Road Map.

Yours sincerely,
Barrie Elvish
Fitness Australia

The link for Industry Restart Guidelines: Physical Recreation Indoor and Outdoor, published on Monday of this week on the Business Victoria website, was www.business.vic.gov.au/search-results?q=restart+guidelines+physical+recreation+indoor

Click here to view Business Victoria’s Arts and Recreation Services sector guidance.

Lower image shows Andrew Ward at his Push! Fitness Docklands club. Source: Facebook.

Related Articles

16th September 2020 - Victoria’s aquatic industry leaders call for clarity

15th September 2020 - Fitness industry disappointed gyms in regional Victoria cannot reopen under this week’s Coronavirus easing

15th September 2020 - Easing of Coronavirus restrictions in regional Victoria to allow resumption of outdoor activities and dining

14th September 2020 - Fitness Australia calls for one-on-one training to be allowed under Victoria’s new outdoor exercise restrictions

14th September 2020 - VIC Active considers Government’s mental health support package to be tokenistic

14th September 2020 - 15 new COVID-19 mental health clinics open in Victoria

12th September 2020 - Tasmanian Government allows conditional reopening of 24/7 gyms

11th September 2020 - VIC Active claims government’s proposal for outdoor training is impractical

11th September 2020 - Victorian Government plans look at venues reopening from 26th October

11th September 2020 - VicHealth study shows food delivery services pushing unhealthy options in low-income suburbs

10th September 2020 - Fitness Australia confirms Melbourne gyms to reopen from 26th October

9th September 2020 - 12RND Fitness’ Michael Jordan backs challenge to Victorian Chief Medical Officer’s comments that gyms are ‘high risk’

8th September 2020 - New body to advocate for the reopening of fitness centres in Victoria

7th September 2020 - Victorian Chief Health Officer’s comments ‘devastating’ to gym owners

6th September 2020 - Fitness Australia challenges Victorian Chief Health Officer’s assertion that gyms ‘cause outbreaks’

6th September 2020 - Melbourne’s Stage 4 Coronavirus restrictions extended for two weeks as Chief Health Officer says ‘gyms are a high-risk setting’

3rd September 2020 - Victorian gym owners plan legal ‘class action’ to reopen gyms

2nd September 2020 - Victorian Government announces funding support for Melbourne’s sports clubs and national sporting organisations

1st September 2020 - Independent gym owners urge Victorian Government to allow gyms to re-open when Stage 4 restrictions conclude

30th August 2020 - Fitness Australia calls for Victorian Government to reclassify health and fitness facilities as an ‘essential service’ 

24th August 2020 - Survey shows Australia gyms outperforming international counterparts

21st August 2020 - Fitness Australia secures support for exercise to be classed as an ‘essential service’ from Victorian shadow sport minister

19th August 2020 - FITREC highlights ‘heartbreaking’ impact of Victoria’s Coronavirus lockdown

13th August 2020 - Fitness Australia counters ‘misinformation’ that suggests gyms are a hotspot for COVID-19

21st July 2020 - Technogym’s Nerio Alessandri says ‘gyms are safe’

7th April 2020 - Two-thirds of the world’s fitness clubs are currently closed


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