BOSTON, MA—May 21, 2020—It's been over four months since the first countries began mandating the closure of more than 200,000 fitness clubs across the globe—with China closing clubs on 24 January.
Since the lockdown period began, global exercise levels have declined sharply. The more than 200 million global health club members have been without access to their health clubs. This lockdown has had a disastrous impact on mental health, stress, depression—all serious afflictions mitigated by regular exercise.
Since physical activity plays a crucial role in wellness, the continued closures of health clubs are putting the world’s health at risk when health and immunity have never been more important.
Because of this, IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, is assisting the industry to open as quickly as safely possible. IHRSA is working with national fitness industry federations and fitness industry leaders across the globe to ramp up efforts and guidance to help club operators open quickly and safely by working with their national and local governments.
A number of factors contribute to the efforts of successful reopening, including:
- Demonstrating to governments that health clubs are essential and must open as soon as it is safe to do so for the health of its citizens,
- Developing frameworks to mitigate the risk of spreading coronavirus in a health club setting,
- Bringing national industry bodies from around the globe together to share approaches for working with governments,
- Lobbying for relief and championing industry preparedness,
- Supporting the efforts of clubs and national organizations to reach their governments where direct lobbying isn’t possible,
- Fostering consumer confidence in the health and safety of health clubs, and
- Sharing the benefits of physical activity and the essential services health clubs contribute to their communities.
As part of IHRSA’s efforts to help clubs open across the globe, IHRSA is:
- Making the case that health clubs are essential and should open as soon as it is safe and reasonably practical,
- Stressing that club operators are ready, willing, and proactively wanting to work in partnership with their governments on reopening plans, and
- Suggesting a four-pronged framework for managing risks associated with COVID-19 within exercise facilities.
IHRSA created the framework with reference to the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), John Hopkins Center for Health Security, 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 hundreds of thousands of clubs that make up the global fitness industry recognize that the reopening of any business, including health and fitness clubs, is not without risk.” She then noted that the John Hopkins Guidance for Governors states that “it is possible to reduce that risk with targeted mitigation steps.”
We invite club operators across the world to download this framework to share it with their national and local officials, as they work in their regions to reopen.
Many of IHRSA’s national federations, including the Czech Fitness Association, Exercise New Zealand, and ACAD Brasil, as well as club operators, have already prepared detailed documentation and procedures that build on the framework, and have shared that documentation with their governments.
Loni Wang, IHRSA board nominee and CEO of Catic Wellness Clubs in China, and Chief Fitness Officer Walter McDonald, developed new operating procedures prior to reopening in March, and have been revising these procedures based on practice and experience since the phased reopening of their clubs. In the U.S., 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 to develop and share guidelines.
IHRSA has made this framework available for free to all in the fitness industry, along with tools and resources to help determine tactics and strategies to implement the framework 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 Global Trade association representing the sports and fitness club industry, IHRSA promotes the industry's contributions to better global health, and actively supports the World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan on Physical Activity.