The global outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has forced the world to slow down and reevaluate virtually every aspect of life as we know it. Parents have had to learn how to foster their children’s education from home, restauranteurs have had to develop methods for contactless pickup and delivery, and gyms and fitness centers have had to find innovative ways to keep their clients safe while working out.
Generally, the evidence shows that a healthy individual’s risk of contracting coronavirus from an infected individual increases in enclosed spaces. This has meant that any business that exists physically (i.e. brick and mortar stores, restaurants) has been forced to find entirely new ways of operating. Gyms are just one of the many businesses affected by the pandemic, and here, we’re going to take a look at how some of the world’s fitness centers have responded.
COVID-19 Gym Best Practices
While in some parts of the world, gyms and fitness centers have still not been able to open up yet many of Australia’s gyms are open and allowing limited visitors with certain restrictions. Those fitness centers that have embraced new regulations have been able to continue operating, which points to a hopeful future for the fitness industry.
Before we delve into some specific examples of what gym owners and operators from around the world have done to adjust to the new world, let’s cover some basic best practices for working out during the coronavirus:
- Face equipment in one direction
- Space equipment and people out in order to ensure proper social distancing
- Thoroughly wipe down all equipment after each
- Limit client capacity
- Bar anyone experiencing any symptoms of illness
- Regularly check staff temperatures and encourage the use of protective face wear
- Limiting the use of towels and encouraging clients to bring their own
- Make classes and training sessions virtual wherever possible
Gyms in Taiwan
Despite its close proximity to China, where the COVID-19 outbreak is thought to have originated, Taiwan is one of the few countries that has managed to avoid a shutdown during the crisis. A swift governmental response and strictly enforced guidelines have helped the country not only to remain open, but to remain relatively unscathed in the midst of global upheaval.
Some of the country’s measures to protect its population include tracking individuals who have recently traveled in order to enforce a strict 14-day quarantine, quarantine violation fines as high as $333,333 USD, and widespread temperature checks at the entrances of most major buildings and businesses. These measures have evidently been working, since the almost 24 million strong country has reported less than 500 cases of the virus since the pandemic began.
In response to the pandemic, Taiwanese gyms now require all visitors to have their temperatures checked before signing in. At sign-in, visitors include information like their name, phone number, and what part of the fitness center they will be using. This information is used to track potential breakouts, and to warn individuals who may have been exposed.
Gyms in Australia
Here in Australia, the coronavirus outbreak has made a slightly more pronounced mark, forcing some businesses into shutdown to avoid risking the health of their customers. Gyms are one of the many types of businesses to follow this trend, with some shutting down to only allow a few clients at a time and others shutting down entirely for the safety of their clients and trainers.
Despite the economic disadvantages of being forced to shut down for several months, many gym owners and personal trainers have risen to the occasion, coming up with innovative new ways to keep their clients moving. Virtual sessions have become an especially popular option amongst Australian fitness enthusiasts, with more than 50% of those that already enjoy home workouts reporting to have attended a virtual class during the pandemic.
Interestingly, the pandemic has revealed a kind of gap in the fitness market as personal trainers and gym owners begin to recognize that there may well be room for virtual fitness even after the pandemic ends. Access to gyms and professional fitness trainers have been limited for individuals with chronic pain, caregivers, parents with small children, individuals without access to transportation, and so on. The addition of virtual sessions has helped trainers to connect with clients they otherwise might never have encountered, opening up a whole new world of possibilities.
Gyms in the U.S.
The U.S. has been hit especially hard during the pandemic, with more than 2.7 million confirmed cases since the outbreak began. Because of this, virtually all gyms and fitness centers around the country have been forced to shut down entirely for months, forcing many to make difficult decisions regarding the future of their business. Unable to open to the public, U.S. gym owners and trainers have turned to virtual and one-on-one sessions, including social-distancing meetups in parks and public areas.
Most significantly, those gyms that are expected to survive the pandemic have spent the last few months adding considerably to their cleaning and sanitation systems, beefing up protocols for maintaining cleanliness, and making significant changes to the layouts of their facilities.
Major Trends to Watch
For much of the world, the general consensus on gyms at the moment seems to be that it is best to stay away. While some countries (like Taiwan) have a lock on the situation, others (like the U.S.) seem to still be free falling, and don’t appear to have any firm solutions in sight. Because of this, it likely won’t be safe for us all to return to gyms en mass anytime soon, which is why so many fitness professionals have begun embracing alternative methods of fitness instruction.
Virtual training is undoubtedly the most significant trend to appear during the coronavirus outbreak, and the one to be most widely adopted by the public. Virtual fitness is allowing trainers to connect not only with their own clients, but with clients from around the world. Those trainers that have embraced technology and begun hosting one-on-one and group sessions via Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, etc., are those that have continued to find work throughout the outbreak, and could be shepherding in a new for the world of health and wellness.
Group workouts and classes were forced to stop as COVID-19 began to spread, since congregating in a small room with 20-50 other people breathing heavily could put the health of everyone involved at significant risk. Though fitness fanatics might not be able to gather with their friends at the local gym for a spin class, trends have shifted slightly to include public and outdoor meetups.
Some gym owners have taken initiative to find local parks and outdoor spaces where groups can safely gather to enjoy a yoga session, run some drills, or simply meditate in the great outdoors. Outside in a park, maintaining social distancing is easy, and relatively large groups can meet safely without worrying about significantly increasing their chances of contracting the virus. *Note: Some local councils will have specific policies for outdoor training sessions, so be sure to check your local policy for outdoor fitness licensing and other regulations.
Those clients that miss the group dynamic of a class can join their favorite trainer or gym owner at a local park, and those that would rather get fit from the safety of their living room can enjoy the same session virtually! The devastating effects of COVID-19 aside, the outbreak has given fitness professionals a chance to make exercise and wellness a little more inclusive, a trend which is expected to stay long after the pandemic is over.
Check out our guide to virtual coaching to learn more about the fitness industry’s response to the coronavirus, and be sure to visit the PT Academy website to discover much more from the worlds of health and wellness.