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IHRSA Tells U.S. Governors to Reopen Clubs, Provides Framework

As states begin opening their economies, IHRSA and U.S. fitness clubs make the case that health clubs are vital and well-prepared for opening as soon as safely possible. IHRSA lays out four areas of focus to safely and successfully reopen clubs across the country.

There are more than 40,000 health clubs across the United States. Before COVID-19 swept the country, these clubs provided jobs for nearly 800,000 Americans and access to safe and supportive places where more than 72 million people could meet their fitness goals, relieve stress, and get healthier.

It's been almost a month since states began forcing health clubs to close, and while the future of the fitness club industry is at stake, the entire country's health is at risk as well. Pre-shutdown, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had an entire resource page warning of the "high health and financial costs" that come with not getting enough physical activity.

During this lockdown, physical activity levels have declined sharply, which by itself is alarming, but made even more so by the fact that obesity-related conditions seem to worsen the effect of COVID-19. In addition to this, the effects of this lockdown have been disastrous on mental health, stress, depression, etc.—all serious afflictions mitigated by regular exercise.

Bearing these alarming facts, IHRSA sent letters to each U.S. governor detailing the need—and reasons—to open health clubs as soon as it is safely possible to do so.

In the requests, IHRSA reminds governors of the central and essential role health and fitness clubs play in the promotion and maintenance of mental, physical, and social health and well-being. Health and fitness clubs are an integral part of the solution to returning citizens to a state of good health.

The letters also explained that club operators were ready, willing, and proactively wanting to work in partnership with state officials on reopening plans.

IHRSA Tells U S Governors to Reopen Clubs Provides Framework Column Image

The Four-pronged Framework

To help clubs and their state and local administrators work together, IHRSA suggests a four-pronged framework for managing risks associated with COVID-19 within exercise facilities.

The creation of the framework refers to the CDC, John Hopkins Center for Health Security, the World Health Organization (WHO), and consultations with club operators and Federations partners worldwide.

The framework covers:

  1. Minimizing COVID-19 exposure by implementing appropriate screening measures.
  2. Minimizing the risk of spread through mitigation measures.
  3. 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.
  4. Minimizing exposure risk by implementing enhanced, evidence-based cleaning, and sanitation practices.

IHRSA and the tens of thousands of clubs that make up the industry recognize that the reopening of any business, including health and fitness clubs, is not without risk.

Though, as noted in John Hopkins Guidance for Governors, “Any place where people come together or have contact with shared surfaces could, in theory, be a transmission opportunity. Exact quantification of the risk of various activities is not possible….” Yet as noted in the guidance, “It is possible to reduce that risk with targeted mitigation steps.”

Working Together to Reduce Risk

We invite club operators to download this framework to share with their local and state officials, as they work in their regions to develop club safety guidance.

Many club operators that directly compete are working together to share knowledge and tactics to make their health clubs as safe as possible for members and staff. Here are three excellent examples of clubs reaching across the aisle to help the whole industry succeed:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 the 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.
  3. 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 just one of the many resources and best practices available on IHRSA's Coronavirus Resource page. Also on the site are 18 Safety Considerations that club operators should ask themselves as they create their plan of when—and how—to open.

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Author avatar

Meredith Poppler @PopplerMeredith

As IHRSA's Vice President of Communications and Leadership Engagement, Meredith works to grow, promote, and protect the global fitness industry through media, policy, and advocacy. Meredith seeks to raise awareness of and funding for important policy issues affecting the fitness industry, while encouraging leadership, engagement and collaboration. When not protecting or promoting the fitness industry, she is either playing tennis or trying to get her stubborn 5-year-old English Bulldog to take a walk.