Fitness Industry Roundup: Inactivity Linked to Severe COVID

The CDC added physical inactivity to its official list of medical conditions that increase a person’s risk of severe COVID-19.

A couple of quiet wins for the fitness industry came last week. First, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) officially listed physical inactivity as a risk factor for severe COVID-19. This notation adds power to the ongoing debate that health clubs, gyms, and studios are part of the solution and should be more aligned with the healthcare continuum.

Another win resides in Michigan. The governor announced that businesses—including fitness facilities—can apply for grants to relieve financial stress brought on by the pandemic.

We also included an Athletech article that promotes the #SaveOurGyms campaign, a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion feature article highlighting several IHRSA members, and a call to action to participate in Obesity Care Week.

CDC Adds Physical Inactivity as a Risk Factor for Severe COVID-19

Research has long indicated that physical inactivity is a risk factor for severe COVID-19. Now, the CDC officially incorporated physical inactivity into its list of medical conditions that increase a person’s risk of severe COVID-19. The CDC notes, “People who do little or no physical activity, or exercise, are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 than those who are physically active. Being physically active (or exercising regularly) is important to being healthy.” Resources for physical activity and health, physical activity recommendations, how to become more active, and how to create activity-friendly communities are included in the CDC’s physical inactivity section.

Medical conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19.

MI to Distribute $400M Through Afflicted Business Relief Grant Program

Beginning Tuesday, March 1, Michigan health clubs, gyms, and studios can apply for financial support through the Afflicted Business Relief (ABR) Grant Program. Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the $409 million program in a press release on February 16, with a goal to help retain or create jobs and boost the state economy. “I’m focused on putting Michiganders first and growing Michigan’s economy as we work together to take advantage of our $7 billion surplus and make investments in the issues that matter most to families,” she said.

“Right now, Michigan’s resilient, innovative small businesses need support, and we should keep having their backs as they work to expand operations and create more jobs.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Eligible businesses in operation before October 1, 2019, may receive a grant—up to $5 million—depending on the percentage of their losses in total state sales. Eligible businesses that began operating between October 1, 2019, and June 1, 2020, may receive a grant equal to 25% of certain specified costs. The Michigan Department of Treasury will host an informational webinar on Monday, March 7, from 1-2 p.m. EST. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 31. Grant awardees will be notified in the spring and grants will be distributed by July 1.

Learn more about the program and view FAQs.

Athletech Promotes #SaveOurGyms Campaign

After reviewing the grim results in the 2021 IHRSA Media Report: Part 2, an Athletech News reporter reached out to learn how the U.S. fitness industry is coping and what it will take to survive. “With each wave of the pandemic, the small business owners in our industry keep getting knocked down, and because of past failures by Congress, each time fewer of them get back up,” Liz Clark, IHRSA president & CEO, told Athletech News. Liz highlighted that the fitness industry is resilient, but with thousands of health clubs permanently closed, a decline in membership levels, and millions of jobs lost, Congress must act now to prevent the fitness industry from going under. Athletech News promoted the #SaveOurGyms campaign, designed to unite the industry’s voice and create awareness, and the industry’s need for relief through the GYMS Act or a similar recovery fund.

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Read more.

IHRSA Members Reveal Positive Impacts of DEI Initiatives

Several IHRSA members—Bernard LeCocq, owner of River North Gym, Michaela Brown, regional group fitness manager and first chair of the new VIDA Diversity & Inclusion Board, and Jon Brady, president of Midtown Athletic Club—were featured in a Recreation Management article for their club’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts. Of VIDA’s community changes and new DEI initiatives, Michaela said that connecting the staff on a human level has greatly benefited the club and consumers. "In general, the world of donors, sponsors and patrons are moving toward a desire to be represented in a quality environment—one that all kinds of people want to be in and refer friends and family to that feels familiar and welcoming," she said.

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Source: VIDA Fitness

Midtown Athletic Club has had a similar approach to make their programming more welcoming to all consumers. “After identifying their unique aspirations, then we build an onboarding program around what they like to do,” said Jon. "It's about guiding people on a personal journey. It's about being more positive, feeling happier within yourself and less stress.”

Bernard noted that unifying the industry and sharing knowledge during the pandemic has fueled another important mission—for the fitness industry to be seen as a healthcare solution. "The government didn't see us as essential. We need to be seen as essential,” he said. “And the way to do that is to be seen not just as gyms but for health and focus on the wellness component. We all need to do that moving forward."

Read the full feature article.

Gear Up for Obesity Care Week

Obesity Care Week (OCW) was launched in 2015 to address a lack of appropriate, science, and clinically-based care by the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), The Obesity Society (TOS), the STOP Obesity Alliance, the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA), and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). Running from February 27 to March 5, OCW brings together patients, allies, medical care providers, and advocates for a week of awareness, education, and action. As an OCW Champion, IHRSA commits to:

  • Provide science and clinically-based education on obesity.
  • Advocate for access to affordable and comprehensive care and prevention programs.
  • Increase awareness of weight bias and work to eliminate it.

This week especially, we encourage everyone to get involved to help change the way we care about the disease of obesity, which currently affects 93 million Americans. Use #OCW2022 on social media to spread awareness and track OCW's reach.

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Learn more and sign up to get involved.

Has your health or fitness-related business been featured in the news recently? We want to know! Send a link to any news article or video that highlighted your business to pr@ihrsa.org, and we may include it in a future issue of the Fitness Industry Roundup.

Author avatar

Sami Smith

Sami Smith is IHRSA's Communications and Digital Content Producer. On a typical day, she delivers communications and creates content to shape IHRSA's image on a variety of digital platforms. Outside of the office, you can find her traveling to new areas, indulging in food, or participating in just about any sport.