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Study says gyms, sporting venues nearly 500 times less likely to spread COVID-19

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A new study has found that gyms and sports venues are up to 500 times less likely to spread the virus that causes COVID0-19.

The study by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) as well as technology and knowledge transfer company MXM incorporated data from 2,873 gyms and other sports venues from around the U.S. over the course of three months to reach a conclusion that they are not prolific spreaders of the disease.

Researchers examined data from almost 50 million check-ins at fitness clubs including franchises like Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Life Time, and Orangetheory, finding that between May 1 through August 6, 2020, only 0.0023 percent of visitors had contracted the disease.

That rate is about 500 times lower than infection rates in average public spaces around the United States, researchers said.

“As recently as a few months ago, the data correlating fitness facility visits and 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,” he added.

While fitness clubs have been open for months now in some states, many remain closed per lingering coronavirus shutdown orders in many others.

The IHRSA, the fitness industry’s sole trade organization, as well as MXM asked health clubs all over the country to participate in the study. Over the course of the research, fitness clubs provided total check-in numbers as well as where they locations where they were reopening.

Also, the number of self-reported coronavirus cases were collected as well, according to a press release.

Last month, MXM released the results of a study indicating a lack of concentrated outbreaks in fitness clubs, the release added.

“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,” he noted further.

Health experts say access to fitness centers and clubs is one way to reduce the spread and lethality of COVID-19. Early in the pandemic health experts found that people with preexisting conditions are more susceptible both to contracting the disease and dying from it. COVID-19 risk factors include obesity, heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes.

In addition, health experts say physical fitness carries mental health benefits as well, which is particularly important now as mental health problems along with drug and alcohol abuse have all risen steadily as lockdowns continue into their eighth month in many parts of the country.

“Fitness centers are needed now more than ever to help us stay active and maintain a healthy immune system,” noted Robert Sallis, M.D., of 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,” he added. “It’s imperative that we all make real change now to stay healthy given that exercise is an essential part of life.”

Jon Dougherty

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