- As of Thursday, four states — including Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington — re-issued state-mandated shutdowns requiring gyms to temporarily close to halt the spread of the virus.
- In conversations with Business Insider, the chief executives of Life Time Fitness, Self Esteem Brands, and Retro Fitness make their case for leaving fitness centers open and explain why they believe closing them is a threat to public health.
- “If you look at a macro level, what’s frustrating to us is this country has a health problem and it’s not just COVID,” said Self Esteem Brands Chuck Runyon. “There is no better time for health officials around the country to remind people to take control of our health.”
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While the pandemic has put a damper on Thanksgiving plans for many Americans, rising coronavirus cases are also hindering traditional pre-feast fitness routines like annual turkey trot races and family gym outings.
As of Thursday, four states — including Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington — re-issued state-mandated shutdowns requiring gyms to temporarily shutter to halt the spread of the virus. And while gyms in most states remain open for now, officials in regions like New York are enforcing earlier closing times and stricter capacity limits for fitness centers.
The closures are sparking outcry and exacerbating existing feuds between gym owners and state officials regarding what types of businesses are permitted to remain open and determined essential.
In conversations with Business Insider, the chief executives of Life Time Fitness, Self Esteem Brands, and Retro Fitness made their case for leaving fitness centers open and explain why they feel closing is a threat to public health. Here’s what they had to say.
Gym owners push lawmakers for essential status
Compounding the struggle for gym owners and consumers alike is a lack of conclusive data regarding exposure and infection rates at gyms, leaving many experts and policymakers at odds over the best course of action.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that “indoor spaces are more risky than outdoor spaces” and several reports found fitness centers — including a spin studio in Ontario, Canada and an indoor ice rink in Massachusetts — tied to several coronavirus outbreaks. Further, a recent analysis by Northwestern University found that gyms were among superspreader venues early in the virus, based on cellphone mobility data.
Still, other studies — including a September report from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association — are reporting contrary findings that show low risk of infection at gyms. While IHRSA reported infection rates as low as .0023% across 2,873 fitness centers, The Washington Post reported that concerns have arisen over the methodology of the survey and conflicts of interest in its development.
Regardless, gym owners are fighting tooth and nail to keep their facilities open, using any helpful data point to their advantage.
Among the most vocal opponents of gym closures is Bahram Akradi, the founder and CEO of Life Time Fitness, a Minnesota-based company