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VIC Active claims government’s proposal for outdoor training is impractical
New advocacy body for the Victorian fitness industry, VIC Active, claims Victorian Premier Daniel Andrew’s suggestion that fitness centres could reopen if they found ways to use outdoor space is completely impractical and will not eventuate.
Premier Andrews yesterday flagged that fitness centres may be able to reopen before the late November target if they could find a way to utilise outdoor space, however according to VIC Active, this suggestion has created further frustration for an industry which has been wrongly categorised as high risk.
Created by independent fitness centre owners state-wide and formed to highlight that fitness centres are COVID-Safe, VIC Active argues that ongoing closures are damaging the mental health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of Victorians, and the late November target for reopening is not realistic and likely to exacerbate the ongoing health crisis.
VIC Active spokesperson, Tim Schleiger stated that “the idea was as knee jerk as the Government’s rationale for the ongoing closure of fitness clubs.
“On one hand it’s great to see the Premier thinking about the industry, but the ongoing problem is that the science and data informing the Government’s position is flawed.
“Alfresco fitness facilities in the street is a band-aid to the mental and physical health crisis facing the state after six months of lockdown, and the months more of lockdown to come.
“It’s impractical, unrealistic and in short, completely unworkable for more than 90% of fitness club owners who make up our membership base.”
Schleiger highlights “space is at a premium in and around most facilities, there are strict Council rules on using public space, and we’d have to completely re-work our equipment – and that’s for centres which actually have available space. It’s simply not going to work.
“It also does nothing for members who are dying to get back to their clubs when we’ll only be able to cater for a heavily restricted number of members at any one time.
“Finally, this idea still ignores the evidence that fitness clubs are COVID-Safe. That’s the most important, and proven, fact here.
“We need urgent, meaningful engagement with the Government’s Health advisory group so that they are properly informed as to the COVID safety of fitness facilities and can get them open quickly for the benefit of the Victorian community.
“We have all the empirical data the Government needs and are eager to assist them to reach sound scientific conclusions as part of the State’s roadmap to recovery.”
Schleiger pointed to data collected in New South Wales by Fitness Australia revealing that from more than 7.3 million check-ins at gyms in an eight-week period after lockdowns lifted on 14th June, there was no evidence of any COVID-19 transmission.
Schleiger added “Gyms were already highly regulated, clean and sanitary environments prior to the pandemic. All VIC Active members have COVID-Safe plans in place which increase the level of safety. The suggestion that fitness centres are high risk is simply wrong.”
Schleiger highlighted that their campaign was supported by recent statements made by numerous experts with respect to declining mental health in the wake of the pandemic including a report by Lifeline that it had taken a record number of calls in a single day – 3326 – and calls had spiked 22% during the second lockdown, with an average of 3000 a day.
"Dr Rachel Jefferson-Buchanan from the Charles Sturt University School of Education states that fitness centres and exercise were essential solutions in relieving stress and addressing mental health challenges during the pandemic.
“Margo Lyndon, Chair of the stakeholder and communications working group for the National Workplace Initiative said one in two working Australians had either have had, or are currently experiencing, mental health conditions.
“The mental health of Victorians has taken a massive hit – the freedom to exercise in a supervised environment with professional management is VITAL.
“Numerous experts including Dr Catherine Bennett from Deakin University and Peter Collignon from Australian National University have agreed that the State Government plan is ‘all or nothing’ and ‘too ambitious’.
“At this rate we’ll be left without access to fitness centres until next year which will have a horrific impact on the wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people. The Government will then have to deal with that.
“Another three months is simply too long to wait. There needs to be a balance and VIC Active will detail to the Government how we can manage health and safety requirements with the urgent need to back into fitness centres.”
So far, more than 100 owners, comprising 400 sites and representing over 4,000 staff and 300,000 members have joined VIC Active, with all operators, suppliers and industry groups urged to join. High profile members include the Victorian operators of major fitness networks including F45 and Body Fit Training.
The broader industry in Victoria comprises more than 45,000 staff. While one in six Victorians regularly attends a fitness centre.
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
3rd September 2020 - Victorian gym owners plan legal ‘class action’ to reopen gyms
19th August 2020 - FITREC highlights ‘heartbreaking’ impact of Victoria’s Coronavirus lockdown
7th July 2020 - Industry impacted by new Victorian Coronavirus lockdown
10th September 2020 - Fitness Australia confirms Melbourne gyms to reopen from 26th October
10th June 2020 - Fitness Australia releases new industry code of ethics
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