gyms ontario

As gyms in Ontario reopen there are concerns they're not safe enough

Gyms are now open in Toronto and much of Ontario as almost all regions have entered Stage 3.

But as gyms open their doors, some people are concerned about the safety of these sweaty indoor spaces.

Steven Brown, the co-owner of Hub Climbing, an indoor rock climbing gym in Markham, is one person with some of these concerns.

As someone in the fitness community, he is torn between the position of prioritizing revenue or health but has decided that Hub Climbing will put health at the forefront.

"We say 'don't come in if you don't want to wear a mask' and we ask you to leave if you try to come in without one," Brown told blogTO.

"If you have a medical note, we'll allow you in but basically we're not making it easy for people to not wear masks," he says.

Hub Climbing has a location in Markham which falls into the York Region and has already entered Stage 3.

"Fitness gyms are opened there," says Brown.

They also have another location in the Peel Region which, like Toronto, is still in Stage 2.

Brown notes that it's very easy to have compliance in the York Region as people are "more mindful of wearing masks."

"None of our customers give us a hard time and they are supportive," he says.

But Brown has noticed in Markham, a lot of fitness centres saying it's the choice of the customers to wear a mask or not.

"It's a driving issue that gym owners are facing - do we have a responsibility beyond or are we just trying to survive?" says Brown

Brown has noticed everyone in the fitness community doing different things.

"Some gyms are allowing people on treadmills without masks," he says.

"As we're in Stage 3 finally, we're all just trying to survive financially," Brown says.

According to Brown, this is why some gyms are being more relaxed about their mask policies and other safety procedures.

Other have voiced concerns that go beyond the issue of face masks.

Brown and his team may have concerns about gyms not following all safety guidelines but are content in their decision to prioritize health and safety at all Hub Climbing locations.

"We're taking a gamble that we can still stay afloat while doing something good for the community," Brown says.

Planet Fitness is another gym that has decided to err on the side of caution, prioritize health, and enforce safety procedures such as mask wearing. 

According to a statement they put out as well as their updated guidelines found on their website, Planet Fitness now requires face masks in all locations. 

Their new safety procedures also include touchless check-in, cardio distancing, and cleaning stations. 

Gym members, as well as staff members are all required to wear masks except while actively working out and in accordance with local restrictions, and gym members are asked to wash hands before using any of the equipment, according to the Planet Fitness website. 

Gym members are also required to wipe down equipment after each use and practice social distancing. 

While some gyms are relaxing mask policies in order to prioritize revenue, Planet Fitness has decided to double down on extra safety policies and they are not the only ones. 

When MOVE Fitness conducted a soft survey a few weeks ago, almost 70 per cent of their community said they were comfortable returning to their gym based on the outlined safety measures presented by MOVE, according to Kelly Taphouse, the gym's founder. 

"My personal opinion, and I am biased, is that I believe coming back to a small boutique studio is a potentially safer experience than a big box gym," Taphouse told blogTO. "There are less people in the classes and it is a more closed community."

Taphouse says she has heard that some people are hesitant to return to gyms, especially bigger studios, but she says when people hear about their smaller class sizes, it's a little bit more well received. 

Taphouse's strength training gym in Leslieville, has set up many COVID-19-related safety procedures including temperature checks, health waivers, mandatory mask wearing in common areas of the gym, no equipment sharing, and strict sanitization policies. 

Taphouse hopes that people's comfort levels will start to rise once they see all their new safety measures. 

Lead photo by

Jesse Milns

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