BOSTON, MA—May 6, 2020—It's been over a month since states began mandating the more than 40,000 U.S. clubs—employing nearly 800,000 Americans pre-shutdown—to close. Now, as states prepare to reopen, IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, and fitness industry leaders are ramping up efforts and guidance to help club operators work with their local administrators to reopen safely.
Since the crisis began, IHRSA has focused on three primary efforts to save the industry:
- Guidance: collecting and sharing vital information,
- Advocacy: lobbying for relief and championing industry preparedness, and
- Promotion: sharing the benefits of physical activity and the essential service health clubs play in their communities.
IHRSA wants to help open the industry as quickly as is safely possible. With physical activity being crucial to the prevention of chronic diseases and more than 40% of cancers, keeping clubs closed puts the country's health at additional risk.
More than 72 million Americans have been without access to a safe and supportive place where they can meet their fitness goals, relieve stress, and get healthier. Physical activity levels have declined sharply during this lockdown period. The effects of this lockdown have been disastrous on mental health, stress, depression, etc.—all serious afflictions mitigated by regular exercise.
And as part of IHRSA’s advocacy efforts to help clubs open across the country, IHRSA contacted U.S. governors across the country. In the requests to governors to reopen clubs, IHRSA:
- Made the case that health clubs were essential and should open as soon as was safely possible to do so,
- Stressed that club operators were ready, willing, and proactively wanting to work in partnership with state officials on reopening plans, and
- Suggested a four-pronged framework for managing risks associated with COVID-19 within exercise facilities.
To help club operators advocate for themselves with their state and local authorities, IHRSA created the four-pronged framework with reference to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), John Hopkins Center for Health Security, and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as consultations with club operators and IHRSA’s Federations partners worldwide.
The four prongs include:
- Minimizing COVID-19 exposure by implementing appropriate screening measures.
- Minimizing the risk of spread through mitigation measures.
- Recognizing everyone’s role in minimizing risk through education and encouraging all members and staff to take all the actions possible to avoid spreading the virus.
- Minimizing exposure risk by implementing enhanced, evidence-based cleaning, and sanitation practices.
In launching the framework, Helen Durkin, IHRSA executive vice president of public policy, said, “IHRSA and the tens of thousands of clubs that make up the U.S. fitness industry recognize that the reopening of any business, including health and fitness clubs, is not without risk.” She then noted, in the John Hopkins Guidance for Governors, (one of the sources IHRSA referred to in creating the framework), “it is possible to reduce that risk with targeted mitigation steps.”
We invite club operators across the U.S. to download this framework to share it with their local and state officials, as they work in their regions to develop club safety guidance.
Many club operators have already prepared detailed documentation and procedures that build on the framework, and are sharing that documentation with their state administrators.
- Kirk Galiani of U.S. Fitness and acac’s Chris Craytor, current chair of the IHRSA Board’s Public Affairs Committee, are working with other operators to develop proposed reopening guidelines for Virginia.
- Jim Worthington, ex-officio of the IHRSA Board, member of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition, and owner of the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC), worked with NAC’s Linda Mitchell and Kate Golden to survey a large number of operators across the country to develop and share guidelines with the entire industry.
- Michael Benton, President/CEO of GENAVIX Corporation and owner of Executive Health & Sports Center in New Hampshire, in reference to the materials said, “A group of us here in New Hampshire worked to pull together documentation to present to the New Hampshire task force. I want to thank IHRSA and the NAC for the content we used to pull the documents together.”
This framework is available for free to all in the fitness industry, as is everything IHRSA has made available at ihrsa.org/coronavirus.
The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and suppliers worldwide. IHRSA and its members are dedicated to making the world healthier through regular exercise and activity promotion.
As the sole association representing the fitness industry, IHRSA protects clubs from legislative and regulatory burdens, promotes the industry's contributions to the health of the nation, and actively supports policies to grow the exercising population.