Medical Experts Speak Out to Show Gyms Are Safe & Essential


IHRSA has created a Medical Expert Series to help the public understand that gyms are safe and exercise can be a solution to the pandemic and strengthen future health.

BOSTON, MA—September 14, 2020—As negative public perceptions persist, the fitness industry is looking to further prove that health clubs are safe and vital for overall health. To do so, IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, is engaging with medical experts to get their professional opinion on the safety and efficacy of clubs.

Fitness facilities have been ramping up their cleaning guidelines and safety procedures since the beginning of the pandemic, and data shows that clubs are not guilty of spreading COVID-19. Now, even doctors are perplexed as to why lawmakers aren’t seeing the positive impact that fitness facilities bring to the public—especially in a time when physical activity can help mitigate the worst of COVID-19 symptoms and cases.

It’s profoundly clear that those with pre-existing conditions, such as obesity, are at high-risk of contracting severe coronavirus and have the most to gain from health clubs.

Greg Degnan, M.D., medical director of the Atlantic Coast Athletic Clubs in Charlottesville, VA, says, “Individuals who are currently at high-risk have the time, and therefore, the potential to positively impact their chronic disease states through regular exercise.”

Robert Sallis, M.D., director of The Sports Medicine Fellowship Program at Kaiser Permanente in Fontana, CA, agrees. Sallis recalls being “dismayed” as the government closed so many low-risk activities and facilities where physical activity was a factor. He says, “It's a mistake to discount the importance of a gym to some people's health.”

To his point, through contact tracing, several states have shown that gyms are not contributing to the transmission of COVID-19. 

Those who are high-risk aren’t the only ones that are impacted by current health club restrictions and closures. The doctors note that during the pandemic, social isolation and quarantine come with negative consequences—which physical activity could counter.

“[Physical activity is] extremely essential to both mental and physical health,” says Lori Deemer, M.D., medical director of Hancock Wellness Centers in Hancock County, IN. “We have to lobby our leaders...persistently and consistently, until [physical activity] is given the priority it deserves.” 

Throughout these discussions, every medical expert has agreed that physical activity is essential now more than ever. And with proper safety and cleaning guidelines, health clubs should be viewed as part of the solution to the pandemic as well as for overall health in the future.

IHRSA’s Medical Expert Series has already garnered attention with its first three installments, featuring SallisDegnan, and Deemer. IHRSA is currently conducting interviews with other medical, science, and public health professionals focusing on:

  • exercising safely in health clubs during a pandemic,
  • how gyms play a significant role in keeping people healthy, and
  • the overall health benefits of exercise.

About IHRSA 

IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, is a not-for-profit trade association representing the global fitness industry of over 200,000 health and fitness facilities and their suppliers.

IHRSA maintains a leadership role in advancing physical activity, which is critical to peak health and fight the battle against obesity and chronic lifestyle disease. As one of the world's leading authorities on the commercial health club industry, IHRSA’s mission is to grow, promote, and protect the health and fitness industry, while providing its members with benefits and resources. IHRSA and its members are devoted to making the world happier, healthier, and more prosperous through regular exercise and activity promotion.

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