Each week, IHRSA Interim President & CEO Brent Darden will bring you his most important topics of the moment in a short five-minute video as part of an ongoing series called “Take 5.”

IHRSA’s Take 5: Fighting to Keep Clubs Open [VIDEO]

IHRSA continues to fight to keep clubs open around the globe and promote the message that exercise is essential—now more than ever.

  • November 04, 2020

As countries throughout Europe begin another round of closures and lockdowns it's more important than ever that we fight to keep health clubs open around the globe and promote the message that exercise is vital. In these trying times, studies are confirming what we already know—that exercise is not only good for physical health, but mental health as well—and there is no time more critical than now to take care of our mental health.

In this week’s Take 5, Brent discusses the findings of the Gympass study that confirms this correlation, touches on global studies that have been done by ClubIntel, provides updates on what IHRSA is doing to work to keep the industry going, how U.S. members can get involved in state alliances, and more.

Watch the full video above, read the full transcript below, or jump to a section by topic:

  • 0:04 - IHRSA European Congress 2020 Postponed Amid COVID-19 Lockdowns
  • 0:56 - The Future of Fitness, November 16-18
  • 1:36 - Research from Sheffield Hallam University Shows Gyms are Not Spreading COVID
  • 2:25 - India Fitness Industry Opens after Seven Months of Lockdown
  • 2:47 - Colorado Fitness Alliance Prevents Gym Closures
  • 3:59 - REX Roundtable Insider Information
  • 4:35 - ClubIntel Study Reports on Virtual Classes
  • 5:30 - Gympass Study Confirms Link Between Exercise and Mental Health
  • 6:30 - Life Time to Lose Millions Due to COVID-19
  • 6:54 - IHRSA Continues Work to Show Clubs are Safe

Full Transcript

Welcome back to this week's IHRSA Take 5.

IHRSA European Congress 2020 Postponed Amid COVID-19 Lockdowns

If you haven't heard, many of the countries around Europe are going through yet another round of COVID-19 shutdowns, and lockdowns, and stay-at-home orders, which is really unfortunate. They've been able to open back up many of the gyms and clubs [that] had been open, and now that's going back the other direction.

And it couldn't be worse timing for us—we were planning the European Congress 2020 in November. And that was going to be a virtual event, but we still needed people to be able to, you know, access the information. And so we're going to have to postpone that event to the spring of 2021. So again, the European Congress that was supposed to happen, is going to be postponed until 2021. And hopefully by then many of these clubs will be back open around all of Europe, and we certainly wish them well.

The Future of Fitness, November 16-18

A good outcome with this is that we're actually partnering, IHRSA's partnering, with Club Industry and SIBEC on their event, which is happening actually, coincidentally, that same week. So November 16th through 18th, "The Future of Fitness" virtual event is available to all of you. It's free, you don't have to be members of IHRSA. There's a great lineup of speakers and keynotes there and IHRSA is going to be contributing many of those speakers as well as some research and information to help even make that a bit broader. So we hope that you'll access that a bit that week. That is another great example of how our industry is sort of pulling together to make things happen through the crisis as best we can.

Research from Sheffield Hallam University Shows Gyms are Not Spreading COVID

In Europe, the shutdowns are happening despite of a great amount of research that shows and demonstrates that clubs are not the place where people are contracting COVID-19. This research was done by the Sheffield Hallam University, so a great third party—very credible—and they analyzed more than 62 million club visits during September from 14 different European countries, and found just 487 infections which translates to [0.78] cases per hundred thousand, which is very, very low. And once again, demonstrating [that] health clubs are not the issue here, as far as the types of businesses where people are contracting COVID-19.

Please Note: The SafeACTiVE study noted in this edition of Take 5 was commissioned by EuropeActive's Research Centre THINK Active with data collected by King Juan Carlos University and AWRC-Sheffield Hallam University. The video is a brief teaser of the information. More information on the data is available here.

India Fitness Industry Opens after Seven Months of Lockdown

On a positive note, [UHFF (United Health & Fitness Federation)], which is IHRSA's national federation partner [in India]...has finally been able to reopen their health clubs [in Maharashtra, an area with a population of over 112 million people] with [assistance] from IHRSA, after seven months of lockdown. So congratulations to [UHFF].

Colorado Fitness Alliance Prevents Gym Closures

And then here more locally, the Colorado Fitness Coalition recently had a big win just this last week. Colorado has kind of been leading the way because their health and human services does a great job, and they post all this online from public information, showing where COVID cases are originating from. And to date, since they've had this information up, there [have] been zero cases traced back to the health clubs in Colorado, demonstrating that they've been doing a fabulous job.

Nevertheless, the coalition there got word that the state was about to reenact, if you will, business closures once again. And health clubs were on the list of non-essential businesses that would be closed. So they quickly mobilized, with help and research and information from IHRSA, crafted a letter and information, [and] they were able to get in front of the elected officials there and turn the corner and get them not to be shut down along with other businesses that started, I think, just this week. So congratulations to the Colorado Fitness Coalition. If you're interested in starting your own alliance in your state… that information again can be found at IHRSA.org.

REX Roundtable Insider Information

This week's REX Roundtable Insider Information is sharing information about the percentage of members as of September 2020, compared to September of 2019. And this percentage does not count freezes as members in this particular study. And that percentage of members this year compared to last is 76.7%. Again, not too bad all things considered, especially with all the club closings and the different amounts of times that clubs have been closed here around the country.

Club Intel Study Reports on Virtual Classes

ClubIntel recently released yet another study—they do such a great job on research—and the research was done on closures and reopenings all across Europe. Of course the study was completed before this latest round of shutdowns. So a lot of that information is not too current as of today. But one thing I thought was worth sharing, because it's telling about some of the things that are going on here domestically as well, and that is that they surveyed 556 fitness companies from a total of 7,300 locations all over the world, including some in the U.S. And what they found was about 70% of operators reported that they offered video on-demand for group fitness classes, and 52% of operators offered video on-demand for fitness instruction, coaching, and personal training.

Gympass Study Confirms Link Between Exercise and Mental Health

Gympass also did a recent survey of some 9,000 Gympass users. And in that study, they found that 95% of employees linked wellness to productivity. No surprise there. Another important finding of that survey that was recorded: almost 7 out of 10 people reported feeling burnout since working from home during the pandemic. We know that mental health is a big issue now more than ever, because of the pandemic, because of the isolation, because of furloughs, because of kids' homeschooling, perhaps spouses working at home together remotely. And that hasn't happened before. So there's a lot of factors that are heightening, if you will, the distress and lack of mental wellness. So as you plan the future in your clubs, please include programming around this aspect and how beneficial health and fitness is not just for physical health, but mental health as well.

Life Time to Lose Millions Due to COVID-19

If you missed it, on "Fox News" Life Time CEO Bahram Akradi recently was reporting on the financial status of Life Time. They're no longer a publicly traded company, as you probably know, but back to being privately held. Nevertheless, he reported that that company will expect to lose $500 million because of the pandemic overall.

IHRSA Continues Work to Show Clubs are Safe

And then finally, just to give you a little bit of insight about some things that IHRSA's working on: We have multiple research studies that we're involved with, with several different universities all around the country, working to produce information to help again tell the story that clubs are a safe place to work out when protocols are followed appropriately.

Another thing that we've done, and IHRSA [has] had as part of its Board of Directors, [is] a Standards Committee, and that's been around at least for the last couple of decades. Now that the committee has been expanded to include some other experts around the industry, and it's working in hyperdrive, if you will, to develop two things: One is a safemark for clubs that are willing to follow a standard of safety and protocols not only from their local governments and local governing agencies, but also from IHRSA, and the CDC, and the WHO sort of all combined together.

And second, to help establish some standards for clubs long term. One of the things that we're suffering from, as we all know, is a lack of credibility from the public, as well as elected officials. One way we can accomplish that into the future and keep something like this from happening again is [to] develop some standards around operating for all closed.

I'll end with that this week. Thank you again.

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Katie Willis

Katie Willis previously served as IHRSA's Senior Marketing Operations Manager—a position that created and executed marketing campaigns to grow IHRSA and promote its events.