Gyms set up cautionary guidelines as COVID-19 is declared global pandemic

Mar 12, 2020

Like most businesses in Manila, gyms remain open even as cases of COVID-19 infection rise in the metro.

Some gyms, however, are issuing additional hygiene and safety guidelines to keep members safe.

On Monday, March 9, the day when the number of reported cases jumped to 20, Maic’s Gym in Marikina released social cards that encouraged their Facebook followers to “wash hands often” and “clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces.” They also reposted guidelines from the World Health Organization.

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Anytime Fitness, which has 166 gyms around the country, posted a similar announcement on Facebook that same day. "[W]e are taking the following steps to maintain your safety," they said. Their gyms will implement additional sanitation mesausres, give free hand sanitizers for staff and members, and conduct health clearances for staff who have traveled to countries with confirmed cases of the virus.

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Two days earlier, Fitness First Philippines, which operates 12 branches around the country, had issued a comprehensive set of guidelines for members on their Facebook page. They also informed their members of the steps they are taking to make their spaces as virus-free as possible.

And just last night, March 11, UFC Gym did the same. “All members and staff are encouraged to practice these prevention tips. Gym spaces and equipment are also regularly cleaned by our staff,” their post said.

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Today, March 12, Manila time, the World Health Organization has classified COVID-19 as a global pandemic.

It is important to note that most recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

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“We recognize that now, perhaps and more than ever, being fit and healthy is of the utmost importance,” said Mark Ellis, country manager of Evolution Wellness Philippines (which runs 12 Fitness First and two Celebrity Fitness gyms around the country).

He added: “With that in mind, our objective was not only to take measures to safeguard the wellbeing of our staff and our members, but to also to be particularly proactive in taking additional steps to build trust and confidence in our approach to providing a safe environment.”

Over the past week, SPIN Life has contacted several major gyms and gym franchises around NCR, but only Evolution Wellness Philippines responded to our questions.

As early as January 28, Fitness First Philippines had already issued an advisory on Facebook, informing members that they will be providing disinfectants and hand sanitizers, as well as increasing equipment cleaning.

Since President Duterte’s declaration of a public health emergency on Monday night, Fitness First and Celebrity Fitness gyms have been stepping up their sanitation guidelines, said Ellis in a statement emailed to SPIN Life.

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By the end of the week, Ellis said, they will be introducing mandatory temperature checks in most of their clubs. Any guest with a body temperature of above 37.5 Celsius will not be permitted inside.

They have also further increased the frequency of equipment wipedowns, and provided disinfectants and hand sprays for their staff. For now, there is no evidence that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted through sweat, but Evolution Wellness is not taking any chances. In any case, more frequent wipedowns will help ensure a more healthy workout environment.

Ellis claimed that business has not been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. “While we noticed a few days of occasionally lower traffic, it’s been encouraging to see that we still see strong attendance as members continue to visit our clubs and stick to their fitness regime,” he said.

He continued: “We actually encourage people to continue with their exercise regime as we know that exercise is a key component in maintaining a healthy immune system.”

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UPDATE, 12 March, 10:21 p.m.: Sparta Philippines in Pioneer, Mandaluyong, also issued its own advisory, right before President Duterte placed Metro Manila under "community quarantine."

In the IGTV video, founder Amanda Fernandez said, "We do value your health more than anything." The gym and for-rent football venue, she said, is conducting regular disinfections of equipment and other surfaces.

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Fernandez stressed that they are not going to cancel any fitness classes, except for classes for kids. She also said that organizers who want to book the Sparta football field are still welcome, provided that all their team players are healthy.

"If you guys are stressed whether to work out or not," she advised, "just take it easy. Do what is best for you and your body."

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