BOSTON, MA—August 4, 2020—Overall, health and wellness are essential to reducing the risk of severe COVID-19. So, why is it that health and fitness clubs seem to get so little respect while giving members a safe and clean space to improve their health?

The answer is simple: the fitness industry is receiving an abundance of negative press that is overshadowing the safety protocols and cleaning guidelines that health and fitness clubs have put in place to keep members, staff, and the community safe.

The issue at hand? Op-ed writers, misinformed medical professionals, and self-proclaimed internet experts have labeled fitness facilities as dirty or germy spaces, which could not be further from the truth. With the help of one particularly misleading study and coronavirus risk assessment charts—that frankly, don’t have any real data that backs up the assessors’ opinion of risk—the media has taken it out of proportion.

IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, has responded to the argument that gyms are unsafe. Recently:

  • IHRSA teamed up with MXM to gather check-in data to provide real proof that clubs are doing everything possible to keep members, staff, and the community safe and that health and fitness clubs are not responsible for furthering the spread of COVID-19. As of July 22, a total of 8.9 million check-ins—gathered from 1,003 health and fitness clubs—resulted in a mere 394 COVID-19 cases. This is equivalent to one case in every 22,589 visits or an occurrence rate of 0.004%.
  • IHRSA senior manager of health promotion & health policy, Alex Black Larcom, MPH, RD, LDN, wrote a counter-argument to the often-quoted—and misleading—South Korea study.
  • Club Business International’s Jim Schmaltz wrote a clever rebuttal to the terrible article.
  • IHRSA Senior Research Manager Melissa Rodriguez, MBA, released data that shows members are coming back to fitness facilities.

One of the more controversial topics aimed at the fitness industry is to wear or not to wear a mask while exercising in a health club. IHRSA has been developing risk mitigation measures for clubs since the early days of the pandemic. Due to the increasing mask debate and mandates being put in place at large chains—without government requirement—IHRSA recommends that all health and fitness facilities evaluate the need of masks in their club, and read what clubs around the world are doing regarding mask-wearing.

Every club and region is having a different experience during the pandemic, so ultimately, it is up to each business to decide which guidelines and protocols are right for their members, staff, and business—as long as they adhere to government requirements. While IHRSA is gathering and producing resources, advocating for relief, stimulus, and protection, and more, it is in club operators’ hands to educate themselves on the issue of mask-wearing and decide what is best for the safety of their members, staff, and community.

IHRSA will continue to inform health club owners and operators of best practices, trends, laws, and research regarding guidelines so they can make the best, most-informed decisions for their facilities.


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 fight 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.