Since reopening on June 12, no health clubs that are members of the California Fitness Alliance (CFA) have reported cases of COVID-19 that have been traced to their facilities, according to the CFA, Sacramento, California.
The CFA surveyed 150 fitness operators, representing 785 locations in California, to demonstrate that the implementation of the group’s guidelines and safety standards have kept its communities safe while providing an essential service to its members and vital jobs to its employees.
“Our survey results show fitness centers are safe due to the standards we are implementing,” Randy Karr, founding partner of CFA and president and CEO of California Family Fitness, said in a media release from CFA. “Survey respondents had more than 5.5 million members check into their facilities between June 12 and July 13, and only .002 percent of those members have tested positive for COVID-19, with no cases reported as a result from visits to fitness centers.”
The CFA, which was founded in April, has implemented a 4-W program that it asks its member clubs to abide by. To protect and prevent the spread of COVID-19, participating fitness clubs have members wear masks, work out 6 feet apart, wash their hands before exercising and wipe down the equipment they use when finished. This is in addition to fully complying with or exceeding safety standards directed by state and county public health offices for facilities and staff, including frequent cleaning, sanitizing, social distancing, physical separation and new check-in procedures.
“We support doing the right thing to flatten the curve, but America is facing a physical and mental health crisis and physical fitness is essential to combat this pandemic,” said Francesca Schuler, founding partner of CFA and CEO of In-Shape Health Clubs. “This is why the California Fitness Alliance worked with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration to develop standards that would enable fitness centers to stay open safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
On May 26, the CFA sent a letter to the governor and local and county officials about how to reopen health clubs safely after more than 4,000 fitness locations in the state were shut down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the letter was sent, health clubs in the state were closed. The governor allowed health clubs to reopen on June 12 on a county-by-county basis if they met county requirements to do so. However, after COVID-19 cases rose again in the state, Newsom ordered gyms in 30 counties to close again.
One in five Americans experiences a mental health issue and physical fitness can be a critical way to combat these issues, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Additionally, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States – responsible for 840,768 deaths in 2016 and an annual total cost estimated at $351.2 billion in 2014-2015. The leading causes of cardiovascular disease are obesity, high blood pressure and lack of physical activity. Forty-seven percent of Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease.
“Sadly, people with chronic health issues have significantly higher risk of severe illness or death if they do become ill from COVID-19,” said Marc Thomas, who is a CFA advisory board member, co-CEO of Aspyr Holdings and an Orangetheory Fitness franchisee. “According to the National Institutes of Health, engaging in regular physical activity is critical to preventing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes among other ailments, confirming once again that fitness is an essential business.”
In fact, Dr. Hemmal Kothary, the chief medical officer for Dignity Health Central California Division, said fitness is so essential to mental health that he has joined CFA as a medical advisor.
“Now more than ever, people need routine and healthy ways to deal with things like anxiety, depression and the isolation caused by this pandemic,” Kothary said in the media release. “The communities created within fitness clubs not only help people maintain motivation for their physical fitness but remind us that we are not alone – even when we are safe and physically distant.”
Cory Brightwell, a CFA advisory board member and CEO of Chuze Fitness, said: “Our industry takes health very seriously, which is why we implemented strict standards. The results of our survey demonstrate these standards work. The California Fitness Alliance will continue working with the governor and local governments to demonstrate that fitness centers are not where infections are spreading.”
The CFA’s members include health clubs, boutiques, studios, fitness professionals, manufactures and suppliers, and individuals. The group represents all regions of the state, urban and rural, small and large.