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A new study found that gyms and other sporting venues are not major contributors to the spread of COVID-19, and the transmission rate is in fact 500 times lower than the average public space.
The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) and MXM, a technology and knowledge transfer company, collected data from 2873 gyms and other sporting venues across the United States over the course of three months.
The study saw that these gyms had almost 50 million check-ins during the three-month period, and about 0.0023 percent of those check ins had later resulted in a positive test for COVID-19. The 0.0023 percent rate is about 500 times lower than the infection rate of the average public space in the United States.
The study cites the strong and thorough hygiene measures that gyms had taken when they reopened after the first lockdown. These measures include new ventilation systems, plexiglass, frequent deep cleanings, and the wearing of masks while moving around the facility.
The researchers conducting the study also found no evidence that gyms had been the place of contraction for the 0.0023 percent of check ins that later resulted in a positive case of COVID-19. This means that the risk of infection rate in gyms could be even lower than what the study says.
"As recently as a few months ago, the data correlating fitness facility visits and mitigating risk was practically nonexistent. All that's changed – and for the better," said MXM CEO Blair McHaney. "It's become abundantly clear that the safety measures gyms, sports clubs and boutique fitness centres have in place are not only incredibly effective at keeping their membership safe, but also curbing any potential spread of COVID-19 during a time when we all need access to exercise facilities to stay healthy."
All gyms and other fitness facilities across the United States were invited to participate in this study. The participating gyms, which included big names like Planet Fitness and Anytime Fitness, kept track of their daily check-ins and the self reported COVID-19 cases of their clients. The results of the study affirmed a previous study by MXM that focused on the lack of concentrated outbreaks in gyms.
"The check-in data proves that health clubs – when following strict cleaning and safety protocols – are safe," said IHRSA interim President and CEO Brent Darden. "At IHRSA, we have a responsibility to educate and inform people that they should feel comfortable and confident going into fitness facilities throughout the country right now. The data shows that, with proper sanitization protocols in place, people can safely return to their workout routines. Working out has never been more important to help boost immunity and improve mental health. It's time to acknowledge that gyms are safe."
Health experts are saying that exercise is more important than ever in this global pandemic, and that those who live an active lifestyle are less likely to get hospitalized.
"Fitness centers are needed now more than ever to help us stay active and maintain a healthy immune system," said Robert Sallis, M.D. with Kaiser Permanente. "COVID-19 risk factors haven't changed since the pandemic began – obesity, heart disease, lung disease and diabetes put you at much higher risk for both short- and long-term complications. It's imperative that we all make real change now to stay healthy given that exercise is an essential part of life."
In Ontario, Toronto Mayor John Tory told CP24 this morning that he has asked the city’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, to develop a guideline where gyms could reopen when the 28-day Stage 2 lockdown comes to an end, stating “there must be a way” to reopen gyms.
Tomorrow, around 200 gyms in the province of Quebec will reopen their doors, defying the government’s lockdown order. The coalition of gym owners cites the need of a healthy population during the pandemic is their motive for reopening their facilities.