ON TUESDAY, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque put off the reopening of gyms until the middle of the month.
“Gyms are not allowed until June 15 because it is a matter of it at risk of being a super spreader event due to its nature of activities done indoors, sweating and activities done in close contact,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.
The spokesperson cited WHO and DOH guidelines for the decision, saying that the gyms, along with arcades, internet cafes, and indoor amusement centers, “must remain closed.”
An organization called tne Fitness Alliance, representing some of the biggest gym chains in the country, has pushed back against those remarks.
“We are aware that various sectors have requested for gyms to remain closed because they contribute to a faster spread of the virus,” reads a statement released by the alliance, which counts Anytime Fitness, Celebrity Fitness, Fitness First, Gold’s Gym, Slimmer’s World, and UFC Gym among its members.
The statement continued: “What is the basis of this allegation? It is clearly debunked by our experience and those of our peers abroad.”
The statement also pointed out that exercise boosts the overall health and wellness of the populace.
“So if it is important why is it the last business to open? Why is the fitness industry always left out? Why is it considered recreation when exercise is already an accepted modality of preventive medicine?” the Alliance asked.
The organization was founded in response to the threats of the pandemic. As an industry, fitness gyms have been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic. From the very first phase of the lockdowns, gyms have been classified as non-essential businesses, and, even as restrictions ease, is among the last sectors to be given permission to operate.
“Thousands of fitness industry workers have lost their jobs or have reduced working hours,” said the Alliance.
The heads of the companies who form the organization also added their own personal statements about the importance of staying active during the pandemic.
“As vaccination campaigns across the country starts, fitness also plays a big part in boosting the effectiveness of the shot,” said Mark Ellis, country manager of Evolution Wellness, which runs both Fitness First and Celebrity Fitness.
He continued: “A recent study by Glasgow Caledonian University has found that a person who is active is 50% more likely to have higher antibodies after a vaccine, in comparison to someone who is inactive. Being physically active strengthens the immune system, reduces the risk of falling ill and dying from infectious disease by more than a third.
“We firmly believe that our industry is part of the solution.”
Gold’s Gym’s chief executive officer Mylene Mendoza-Dayrit, meanwhile, pointed out that we are also facing another emerging pandemic: obesity.
“Exercise is already recognized as part of preventive medicine. Doesn’t that alone make it essential?” she said.
The Alliance makes the claim that, “in the months we were open”, there have been “zero club transmissions of the virus” across more than 600,000 member check-ins inside their establishments.
The companies’ individual statements explain how they arrived at that number. While they do not deny that there have been employees or members that have contracted COVID-19 — in the case of Evolution Wellness, 1 reported case for every 16,200 member check-ins — the companies say that there has been no on-site transmission within their premises.
“This reflects how we are careful, safe and serious in ensuring our client's safety with strict precautionary measures to avoid contraction of the virus,” said Desiree Moy, president of Slimmer’s World.
Ryan Cheal, chief operating officer of Anytime Fitness Asia, stressed: “Overall, health and fitness clubs are not hotspots [and are not] uniquely contributing to the spread of coronavirus.”
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