Every second treadmill turned off, no water bubblers and PA system giving half hourly reminders on social distancing could be the new norm when gyms reopen.
The CEO of Fitness Australia has responded to the government’s ‘Roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia’ announced today, and revealed what might be involved for gyms to open up.
In ‘Step One’ outdoor gyms will be able to reopen with up to 10 people attending, as well as boot camps, but “no indoor physical activity including gyms”. Pools are listed to be able to operate again in ‘Step One’ and ‘Step Two’ “with restrictions”.
In ‘Step Two’, indoor gyms with up to 20 people can reopen.
The boss of the fitness industry’s peak body said he is already in talks with the states to get gyms operating again as soon as possible.
“I’m a little bit disappointed we couldn’t make stage one in terms of our gym facilities, but really pleased that the Prime Minister and Chief Medical Officer have specifically mentioned gyms and exercise as going in at stage two,” CEO Barrie Elvish told Nine.com.au.
“We’re now really keen to work with each individual state to see if we can fast-track some aspects. We know some states will go to stage two sooner than others.”
What it will mean for your local gym
But how would gyms be able to reopen and operate safely with the threat of coronavirus still present in the community and no vaccine available yet?
Mr Elvish explained that a system of protocols has been developed with gyms, consulting every state health authority, “to provide a safe and hygienic environment for members going back to gyms, but also to encourage those who might be a little bit reluctant or anxious, that it is safe to go back”.
“Those protocols include things like social distancing, disabling water bubblers and showers, people must bring their own towels and drink bottles, increased signage, increased sanitation stations, if they have a PA system reminders every half hour or so to keep their distance, and exercise professional staff demonstrating good behaviour,” Mr Elvish said.
“If you had treadmills or spin cycles, the protocol is you’d disable every second or third one, so you can’t get on it subconsciously, and also gym staff will have to be much more proactive in both cleaning equipment as they walk around, but also reminding people that they need to practice social distancing.”
There is also added responsibility on gym staff to enforce these protocols so that gyms are not forced to close again.
“Our recommendation will be that if they give a reminder and that person doesn’t practice social distancing, that person can be banned from that facility for a period of time until they learn how to behave appropriately,” Mr Elvish said.
“A gym should not be opening unless they can offer a safe environment for their members.”
What about the 20 person limit in gyms?
There is still some aspects of the plan to reopen gyms that requires clarification however, with concerns that 20 people per gym would not be sustainable for businesses to reopen successfully.
“When they say groups of 20 in a gym, if they’re meaning 20 for a whole facility, that is not going to be commercially viable. They will not be able to open,” Mr Elvish said.
“We’re assuming they mean 20 people per room, which makes absolute sense, as long as they can abide by social distancing.”
Mr Elvish was also confident that should an outbreak occur in an Australian gym, that business owners would be willing to work with health authorities in providing electronic swipe card data to allow contact tracing.
“We can provide them with real time data of who has been in the gym, what time, day, how long and so on,” he said.
“I don’t think it would hurt their business by providing that. I think gyms like our clients are interested in the health and wellbeing of Australians. We all want to work together to get people get back into their routine, get them feeling good, and helping them cope with their day to day regimes and activities.”
With four million Australians owning gym memberships, the hit to the industry since the shutdown in March has been significant, and not just financially.
“It’s massive,” Mr Elvish said.
“It’s a $3 billion industry, with 35,000 staff, and over 6,000 facilities around the country. There’s been huge commercial costs and losses, but the biggest losses is the cost to the health bill to Australians who haven’t been able to manage their physical and mental health wellbeing.
“When the Health Minster there’ll be an increased number of suicides, that’s what’s going to be the cost if we can’t get back to exercising.”
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