BOSTON, MA—October 19, 2020—More positive results are in for the global fitness industry as member check-in data continues to prove that health clubs are not unique hotspots for coronavirus, and transmission rates are low.
These three countries are working to show that—with risk mitigation in place—health and fitness clubs are safe and low risk for contracting COVID-19.
1. Australia - Data collected by Fitness Australia
Researchers gathered over 6.26 million check-ins from 423 gyms and fitness facilities across New South Wales from June 13 to August 11. Although the data show 13 cases of COVID-19 during this period, there have been zero reported community transmission cases.
Fitness Australia is a not-for-profit industry association that exists to professionalize the fitness industry by engaging in partnerships, advocacy, delivering education, quality, and accreditation. They support the industry to provide an environment for more Australians to adopt a healthy, active lifestyle.
2. England - Data collected by ukactive
The ukactive data, compiled from over 8 million member check-ins between July 25 to August 16, reports 17 cases of COVID-19. Of those cases, contraction did not happen at any of the 1,300 fitness facilities in the study.
ukactive is a not-for-profit industry association promoting commercial fitness gyms and community leisure centers in the United Kingdom. They exist to improve the nation’s health by getting more people, more active, more often.
3. U.S. - Data collected by IHRSA and MXM
The U.S. collected the most extensive sampling, with 2,873 fitness facilities taking part in IHRSA and MXM’s “visit-to-virus” ratio tracker. Of the 49.4 million member check-ins documented in the study, health clubs reported 1,155 cases, translating to a 0.0023% infection rate. Once again, none of the cases led to community transmission.
IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, is a nonprofit trade association and one of the world’s leading authorities with a mission to grow, promote, and protect the health and fitness industry through regular exercise and activity promotion.
MXM is a “knowledge transfer company” that solely focuses on the fitness and wellness industry and a leading expert on Operational Member Experience Management.
A few factors limit the ability to draw absolute conclusions from these studies. While this analysis cannot detect community transmission related to health clubs, the public health infrastructure supporting contact tracing is overwhelmed in several areas—especially in the presence of a COVID-19 surge.
Contact tracing is also not always thorough. In some U.S. states, response rates to contact tracing have been below 50%, with roughly half of participants refusing to provide information about their contacts or activities. The lack of data means the study cannot rule out community transmission in fitness centers not detected in the analysis. However, contact tracing data from several states and existing research support the findings here that clubs do not primarily drive COVID-19 transmission.
The risk is not—and can never be—zero for any business. Recently, a superspreader event occurred at a spin studio in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Emerging evidence suggests superspreader events are responsible for the majority of COVID-19 cases, with anywhere from 1-20% of cases contributing to 80% of the spread.
One positive point is that health and fitness centers have been open globally for months, and this is the first superspreader event to occur in the industry. The challenge is that events like these can affect any community location and are hard to predict. IHRSA outlines what we know about superspreader events, particularly the Hamilton case, in What the Fitness Industry Can Learn from a COVID-19 Outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published a study examining what places were most likely visited by those testing for COVID-19—positive or not. Researchers found no statistically significant association between participants having a positive COVID-19 test result and visiting the gym. The study is not a resource to argue that clubs are virtually safe or unsafe, but it does provide insight into whether current guidelines effectively control the spread of COVID-19. A full analysis of the study is available for more information.
It’s important to note that the results from all three of the check-in studies bear the same marks:
- When risk mitigation and cleaning protocols are in place, fitness facilities are safe for members, the community, and staff alike.
- Overall, health and fitness clubs are not hotspots or uniquely contributing to the spread of coronavirus.
IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, is a not-for-profit trade association representing the global fitness industry of over 200,000 health and fitness facilities and their suppliers.
IHRSA maintains a leadership role in advancing physical activity, which is critical to peak health and fighting the battle against obesity and chronic lifestyle disease. As one of the world's leading authorities on the commercial health club industry, IHRSA’s mission is to grow, promote, and protect the health and fitness industry, while providing its members with benefits and resources. IHRSA and its members are devoted to making the world happier, healthier, and more prosperous through regular exercise and activity promotion.