keep gyms open

Toronto gyms are begging the government not to shut them down

With COVID-19 case numbers continuing to trend upwards, officials have been introducing new restrictions for certain businesses in Ontario — and specifically Toronto — to help mitigate the spread of the deadly virus in public settings.

Premier Doug Ford last week announced tighter rules for gyms, which include new capacity limits of 10 people in fitness classes and 50 people in centres in general, along with mandatory masking indoors no matter where they are in the province (except during physical exercise).

But some health officials are calling for even more measures in fitness facilities to keep the communicable disease at bay; Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa recently asked Ford to permit her to cancel all indoor classes in general at fitness facilities in the city, which is one of the province's key COVID hotspots.

Though the province didn't implement de Villa's recommendations, Toronto's struggling gyms are now fearing another potential lockdown after already being forced to shutter for many months earlier this year.

Gymgoers are likewise worried about potential impending restrictions or full-on closures, taking to social media to remind officials that facilities are subject to the same pandemic operating rules as other businesses, and are thus safe.

Many are also reiterating the importance of physical fitness to overall health and well-being, and that gyms are especially needed during the dreary winter months when getting outdoors to exercise isn't a realistic option.

There are also the economic concerns to take into account, with non-essential businesses and the economy at large still reeling from the lengthy mandatory lockdown earlier this year.

The hashtag #KeepGymsOpen has been circulating as a result for Toronto specifically, as well as for other jurisdictions around the world, and petitions launched to keep them open and operating as fully as possible.

"Our neighborhood gyms are mostly family-owned and are so much more than just a place where we work out. They are an essential part of our community, keeping us healthy and sane in these crazy times we live in," one petition out of Toronto states.

"Boutique gyms like our beloved F45 studios go above and beyond to keep us safe... Keep our local gyms open, help small business owners survive in these tough times, they won't make it otherwise."  

But with recent infections among staff at Toronto area locations of popular gym chains like GoodLife Fitness and Barry's Bootcamp — along with the fact that some trainers have cited a lack of adherence to safety protocols in certain facilities — many residents are understandably wary of keeping gyms open.

As with restaurants and bars, it has proven quite the task to weigh the risks and benefits of keeping things open to certain degrees, and to find a balance that prioritizes the health of the public, but also the economy and people who have their entire livelihoods invested in their business.

Fitness buffs and gym owners will, like everyone else, just have to wait and see what restrictions may lay ahead in the second wave.

Lead photo by

Tatyana Sabitova

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