Fitness Australia says gyms should be reopened if they follow strict guidelines – but an expert says the conditions aren't right 'just yet'

Could it be time to reopen gyms? Image: Getty
  • Industry body Fitness Australia believes gyms should be reopened if they follow strict guidelines.
  • These include temperature checks on arrival, a lot of cleaning and sanitation and spacing equipment.
  • Emmanuel Stamatakis, Professor of Physical Activity at the University of Sydney told Business Insider Australia, “I do not think that the conditions are right just yet.”
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Should gyms be one of the first venues to reopen when coronavirus restrictions are lifted? Industry association Fitness Australia thinks so – if they follow a strict reopening framework.

Gyms were among the many venues ordered by the federal government to close to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But with the federal government considering easing some restrictions in the coming weeks, Fitness Australia believes the fitness industry can be among the first to reopen.

The peak body says it has been working with the government, industry stakeholders and international bodies like the World Health Organisation to create a framework for safely reopening gyms.

It includes measures like temperature checks on arrival, constant cleaning and sanitation, spacing equipment, having personal protective equipment for workers, smaller classes and outdoor fitness options.

“The fitness industry, like all Australians, want to ensure there is no further spread of COVID-19 as restrictions are slowly eased back,” Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish said in a statement. “However, there’s no reason why gyms can’t be one of the first sectors to reopen. We believe gyms can safely reopen with social distancing and hygiene requirements in place, which is why we have prepared a strict reopening framework for all fitness facilities and personal trainers.”

Elvish said gyms have a major advantage compared to venues like restaurants because they can keep track of people, as gym-goers need to swipe in and out or making a booking for a class. “Should it be necessary, no other industry has the ability to provide to health authorities this real time data,” he said.

He also mentioned the role exercise plays when it comes to overall health and wellbeing. “The industry is committed and onboard to do whatever is needed to reopen,” he said. “We all want to ensure gym members and employees have the peace of mind to safely return to the gym, do a workout or take part in a group class.”

The conditions are not right “just yet”, according to an expert

Emmanuel Stamatakis, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Population Health at the University of Sydney, told Business Insider Australia via email that while he wants to see gyms reopened, the conditions are not the best right now.

“There is no question in my mind that exercise facilities should be among the first premises to be considered for re-opening, provided that the conditions are right of course,” he said. “I do not think that the conditions are right just yet.”

“Australia is doing well but there are too many unknowns with COVID-19, at this stage it is impossible to predict if the pandemic is coming to an end or we only experience the calm before the big storm – for example a nasty second COVID-19 wave.”

Stamatakis added that “it would be a mistake” to open all indoor activities at once, including gyms. Instead, he believes reopening should be done in a more cautious and calculated manner.

“For example, first open the outdoor exercise facilities in parks, give it 2-3 weeks and re-evaluate,” he said. “If it all goes well then proceed with opening indoor facilities under a strict cleanliness and maximum number of patrons at any given time framework.”

Stamatakis also give his suggestions for what gyms can do if they are allowed to reopen, such as preventing drop-ins during busy times, having a gym slot booking system for people before they come to the gym, implementing regular cleaning and giving customers free towels and sanitiser to use during their workouts.

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