By Alyssa Eddy, February 11, 2021—
Nearly 200 Alberta fitness facilities have joined together to form the social movement known as “SaveFitnessAB” to voice their concerns regarding the economic and health consequences of Alberta fitness closures. Represented by the Alberta coalition of the Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC), SaveFitnessAB has quickly gained the attention of fitness facility owners, gym-lovers and many social media users.
On Jan. 30 @savefitnessab created its first Instagram post and since then, they have gained over 2400 followers, the hashtag #savefitnessab has been shared over 300 times and over 35,000 people have signed a petition demanding fitness centers re-open.
Over 80 per cent of fitness facilities involved are small local businesses — data collected by the FIC shows that nearly 50 per cent of fitness studios will be unable to survive the current situation beyond April 2021. Their surveys say the average fitness facility is losing 20,000 dollars a month after government subsidies are counted. The FIC is concerned for both the business owners, and Albertans struggling with anxiety and depression without a physical outlet to express themselves.
The FIC asks the Government of Alberta for help, in a breakdown of three requests. First, they are seeking a clear, data-driven, phased and safe approach to re-opening. Secondly, financial support is essential for the fitness facilities that are operating at a severely limited capacity, or unable to operate given current restrictions. The FIC is not only seeking assistance for the facilities, but also requesting financial assistance to Albertans in the form of tax deductions, and government-funded mental health resources.
Whether you are looking forward to fitness facilities re-opening or watching in fear, there must be thorough standards in place committed to reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19. Alberta fitness facilities say they have scheduling and check-in systems in place dedicated to contact tracing. Each member will be sanitized and screened upon arrival. All equipment is to be rigorously cleaned between each participant or class.
According to AHS statistics and the FIC, the COVID-19 transmission rate in fitness is 0.0037 per cent. Between June and November of 2020 there were over 4 million workouts, with 147 positive COVID-19 cases traced to fitness centers. SaveFitnessAB members stand by their opinion that “fitness is part of the solution, not the problem.”
As of Feb. 8, 2021, fitness studios were able to re-open for one-on-one personal training. A reopening plan which benefits only the clients who have the financial opportunity to afford personal training. Most Albertans, especially those unemployed or working fewer hours due to the pandemic, will not have the luxury of personal training. The increased revenue fitness studios will receive from one-on-one training will likely not be enough to remain open, a scary thought as we quickly approach April 2021, when 50 percent of fitness facilities may be forced to close their doors permanently.
If the COVID-19 cases continue trending downward the government may launch phase two of reopening, which might include further fitness restrictions being eased as soon as Mar. 1, but SaveFitnessAB requests action to be taken sooner. As COVID-19 cases decrease in Alberta, and SaveFitnessAB gains traction in the public eye, we may see the power of social media in gaining government attention and action.