A group of 20 have come together under the name Independent Gym Owners Ireland to launch the campaign. Gyms should be allowed to stay open to help people with their mental and physical health.
While gyms below level 3 may be opened with a limited number and certain safety conditions, they must close below levels 4 and 5. Business owners fear that they will be kept open and closed for a year or year that will affect not only them but their customers as well.
Eoghan Gallagher runs Elev8 Health and Fitness, an independent gym in South County Dublin. He opened his gym in 2014 and has four employees.
“We have taken every possible precaution since it reopened,” he said TheJournal.ie. „If there was a second lockdown, gyms would be one of the first things to close again. ”
“We urge the government to make sense and not to take away an outlet that the people of this country need mentally and physically.”
“Nobody fights for us,” Gallagher said of why he had gathered the group of 20 gym owners.
“I fully believe that we should be open at level 5,” he said. He asked why fast food places are considered a must-have service and gyms are not.
Gallagher said he contacted Ireland Active – the national association for the leisure, health and fitness sectors that represents 350 publicly and privately owned companies – on the matter but received no response.
When the first lock came in, Gallagher had just flown home from a vacation in New York. He closed the gym and gave machines to customers so they could exercise at home, and regularly set up Zoom and Facebook fitness classes.
The gym was closed for 14 weeks.
“We had a big drop in visitor numbers at Zoom,” said Gallagher. “It became demoralizing for them – they had no place to train. They could walk and run as the weather was fine. If we lock up again, that won’t be the case. It will be dark, wet and cold. ”
When the gym reopened, he said “the buzz around it was insane”. It stuck to the majority of its members.
“When we originally went into lockdown we had a 60% loss in revenue and after we came back we quickly got back to where we really were and grew a bit. We have grown to the point where I want to move – it has driven everything. We need more space because of social distancing. But if we go into lockdown again, I don’t know where we’ll be. ”
Gallagher said he feared closing the gyms “will put people back in a dark place”.
Gallagher said he witnessed the mental health impact of some customers with the gym closing and reopening. “90% of my members would now work from home,” he said. “And if they don’t have a power outlet to get to the gym or out of the house, they’ll be stuck in their house 24/7. The hour you have to go to the gym is probably the best hour of the day. ”
“Exercise is as important to both mental health as it is physical,” he said. “The government always says you have to be fit and healthy to fight the coronavirus.”
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The gym adheres to the restrictions by limiting workout groups to four people. Customers must strictly maintain social distance and are not allowed to share equipment. Gallagher said he introduced temperature checks, hand sanitizer, and a special electrostatic sanitizer gun that cost over € 2,000. The gym is cleaned thoroughly every week.
“We have taken all the measures that the government announced, but we still haven’t received as much advice from the government as to what to do or not to do,” he said. He added that he understands that some classes – like Spin classes – may not be suitable for opening in the stricter levels.
But he said that the government “needs to be a little more specific about what it says” and that there is some confusion among the people.
If gyms are allowed to open on the stricter levels, Gallagher said the HSE should dispatch inspectors to make sure the gym owners are following the guidelines.
He said there is “a lot of fear” among gym owners about the effects of the waves of opening and closing.
I am fighting to keep the industry open. We do a lot more mentally and physically than fast food restaurants and outdoor pubs.
Weather and outdoor courses
Scott Furlong of Fitness Health Performance in Churchtown is another gym owner calling for change.
Unlike in Gallagher’s gym, he was able to hold outdoor classes under canopies. “It was great in the summer but obviously daylight is a problem now and the weather,” he said.
He said he is aware of the mental health issues his gym members may struggle with and he knows that some clients live on their own. The oldest member of the gym is in his early 70s.
“For some people it is not feasible to run or go for a walk outside,” emphasized Furlong.
Furlong’s gym is “50% at best” and open for extra hours to accommodate people. Like Gallagher, he cited the cost of detergents, disinfectants, and sprays to keep the gym in a safe space.
Furlong, who has been in the business for three years, also raised the problem of uncertainty for gym owners not knowing when the next shutdown might come.
He fears the mental health of the athletes if there is another closure soon: “People would fight mentally”.
He said online classes are not always a suitable substitute for going to the gym.
“The last thing you want to do after an eight hour day at work is follow something on Zoom for 45 minutes. It is not possible to get [the same] Endorphine. „
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“We’re just trying to make people fitter, healthier and feel better,” Furlong said. “We all want that at the end of the day.”
Coronavirus and gyms
In the latest report on Covid-19 clusters in Ireland, the Health Protection Surveillance Center reported nine related to “exercise / fitness”.
However, it was not stated here whether any of these cases were related to gyms:
Although there has not been extensive research into how the coronavirus can spread in gyms, we do know that the virus spreads through droplets in the air and over surfaces.
This is why social distancing has been introduced around the world and why gyms need to separate their clients from one another in order to reduce the chances of people inhaling these droplets or touching contaminated surfaces. Given that gyms often have equipment that is shared by multiple people, there are additional disinfection concerns.
A study carried out in South Korea provides insight into what can happen in terms of the spread of Covid-19 when people do vigorous exercise in confined spaces.
During the workshop on February 15, the instructors trained intensively for 4 hours. Out of 27 teachers who attended the workshop, 8 had positive real-time reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) results for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, which causes COVID-19; 6 were from Cheonan and 1 from Daegu, where most of the COVID-19 cases have been reported in South Korea. All were asymptomatic on the day of the workshop.
The study shows the difference between exercises in small classes and more densely packed classes.
“Some of the characteristics that may have resulted in transmission by the Cheonan instructors include large class sizes, small spaces and the intensity of the training. The humid, warm atmosphere in a sports facility in conjunction with the turbulent air flow generated by intense physical activity can lead to a denser transmission of isolated droplets, ”the study says.
It said that classes from which secondary COVID-19 cases were identified “included 5-22 students in a 60m2 room during 50 minutes of intense training.”
However, it should be noted: “We have no cases between classes with
It is also said that in one class, one instructor was teaching Pilates and yoga to classes of 7 to 8 students in the same facility at the same time as another instructor, but none of her students tested positive for the virus.
We assume that the lower intensity of Pilates and yoga did not cause the same transference effects as that of the more intense fitness dance classes.
While this is not a definitive study, it does shed light on what researchers are finding out about the spread of Covid-19 and gyms.
While people are asymptomatic, they can still expel virus particles. Also, people may breathe harder when exercising, which can be another problem.
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