After analyzing millions of member check-in data across 2,873 gyms, sports clubs and boutique fitness centers over the course of three months, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) and MXM, a technology company specializing in member tracking within the fitness industry, found that fitness facilities are safe and are not contributing to the spread of COVID-19.
From May 1 through August 6, 2020, IHRSA and MXM examined and compared member check-in data (number of gym visits) from a number of fitness facilities – such as Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Life Time, and Orangetheory – across the country with self-reported infection rates. After nearly 50 million check-ins over that three-month period, the study found that a nominal 0.0023 percent tested positive for COVID-19.
Gyms nationwide have robust COVID-19 safety measures in place and there is zero evidence that the positive cases originated in gyms themselves.
“As recently as a few months ago, the data correlating fitness facility visits and the mitigating risk was practically nonexistent. All that’s changed – and for the better,” said MXM CEO Blair McHaney. “It’s become abundantly clear that the safety measures gyms, sports clubs and boutique fitness centers have in place are not only incredibly effective at keeping their membership safe, but also curbing any potential spread of COVID-19 during a time when we all need access to exercise facilities to stay healthy.”
The fitness industry’s only trade association, IHRSA, along with MXM, invited all health and fitness clubs in the U.S. to participate in the long-form study. Over the course of the study, fitness centers provided their total check-ins and number of locations across all states in which they have a presence as well as self-reported on the total number of positive COVID-19 cases documented between employees and members who have been in the club. MXM previously conducted a study surrounding the lack of concentrated outbreaks in fitness facilities with affirming results just last month.
“The check-in data proves that health clubs – when following strict cleaning and safety protocols – are safe,” said Brent Darden, IHRSA interim president and CEO. “At IHRSA, we have a responsibility to educate and inform people that they should feel comfortable and confident going into fitness facilities throughout the country right now. The data shows that, with proper sanitization protocols in place, people can safely return to their workout routines. Working out has never been more important to help boost immunity and improve mental health. It’s time to acknowledge that gyms are safe.”
IHRSA noted that physical activity plays an important role in not only maintaining a healthy immune system but reducing COVID-19 risk factors such as obesity, heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that 42.4 percent of U.S. adults and approximately 18.5 percent of children and adolescents in America are considered obese. Physical fitness has long-term mental health benefits as well, including reducing the risk of stress and depression. Notably, one in five Americans experience mental health illness, and people with mental illness have a 40 percent higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population.
“Fitness centers are needed now more than ever to help us stay active and maintain a healthy immune system,” added Robert Sallis, M.D. with Kaiser Permanente. “COVID-19 risk factors haven’t changed since the pandemic began – obesity, heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes put you at much higher risk for both short- and long-term complications. It’s imperative that we all make real change now to stay healthy given that exercise is an essential part of life.”