Nova Scotia fitness business requests exemption to stay open amid COVID-19

The owner of a fitness facility in Halifax has written a letter to the province asking for an exemption to stay open out of concern for his clients.



a desktop computer sitting on top of a chair: Image of OneUp Fitness.


© Global/Ashley Fields
Image of OneUp Fitness.

The owner of OneUp Fitness, Matt Mombourquette, said what sets his facility apart from other commercial gyms is its small size, one-on-one, appointment based-training. Its average demographic is people aged 55 and up.

“A lot of our clients have chronic health conditions, such as osteoporosis, orthopedic pain, we have some clients with Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy,” said Mombourquette.

So when the province announced a second round of lockdown for fitness facilities, Mombourquette said he was concerned for his aging clientele.

Read more: Nova Scotia reports 37 new cases of COVID-19, shuts down bars, gyms

Between the facility’s Halifax and Bedford studios, Mombourquette said, they see roughly 150 clients per week, but fewer than half took up virtual classes when their doors closed in March.

“When they came back and we opened our doors again in June, we could see a lot of deterioration. They shared that they had a lot of physical challenges; they felt weaker, and some of them had some depression,” he said.

This is when he decided to write the letter to see if there was “some wiggle room” that existed for their facility.

On Tuesday, Dr. Robert Strang, chief medial officer of Nova Scotia, said there will be no exceptions to the rule.

“Our goal is to remain very tight for the shortest time possible, and every time we give an exception it creates another opportunity for a breakthrough that might then be the reason why we have to extend,” Strang said.

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It’s a decision Mombourquette respects but says he’s frustrated by.

“I think everybody understands that exercise does have a big impact on positive immunity and keeping us safe from this current pandemic and potentially future ones,” he said.

One of Mombourquette’s clients is Jason Roth, a 70-year-old Halifax man, who has been coming to OneUp Fitness twice a week for the past 15 years. He tells Global News his health took a hit when the facility’s doors closed in March due to COVID-19.

“In terms of the sense of being in shape and fitness, I would say was about 50 per cent as effective as it had been,” said Roth.

He says he’s been to other, larger gyms and OneUp Fitness is different. He doesn’t believe it should be lumped into the same category.

“I’m not surrounded by a lot of people, equipment is immediately wiped down, people are in and people are out,” he said.

“That distinction between eating establishments and drive thru establishments, I think, would fit as a distinction between OneUp and the average gym.”

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Roth said that if an exemption were to be granted, he would gladly get back to his regular routine.

“My wife is someone who has a bit of a wonky immune system, I do not take risks, attending OneUp with their level of fitness and cleanliness and vigilance I feel would be no risk at all.”

But Strang has made it clear that the province will not be giving any exceptions.

“I’ve learned very clearly through this as soon as you do that then there’s a whole cue of other people wanting to be given the same treatment,” Strang said.

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