Gyms reopening after coronavirus lockdown with new health and safety rules

Gold's Gym, SoulCycle, Life Time Fitness and more studios implement health and safety standards

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SoulCycle studios and boutique and big-box gyms alike are putting in guidelines to re-open once coronavirus pandemic restrictions are relaxed or lifted to keep spaces clean and to reduce person-to-person contact.

Contactless check-ins, pre-workout temperature checks, masked workouts and limited amenities or perks are some of the ways gyms throughout the country are trying to keep members and staff healthy.

"With no way to predict what will happen, the best way we can prepare is to respond and evolve as the situation develops—with nothing but your safety in mind," SoulCycle said on its website.

Gyms and fitness studios are reopening with new health and safety protocols. 

Gyms in at least 45 states closed in mid-March when the virus broke out in the United States, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).

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While part of many Americans' daily routine, gyms still pose a big health risk for coming in contact with the contagious virus spread from person to person contact and in the air. What’s more, research has shown that the virus can remain in the air for up to three hours, and droplets on stainless steel or plastic surfaces can linger for up to 72 hours.

And while some gyms across the country have already reopened or plan to this month as part of President Trump’s Phase One proposal to reopen the American economy, many are grappling with ways to protect new and returning members.

SoulCycle spin instructors and staffers will get temperature checks before work and riders will also be mandated to temperature checks before they enter in states that require it, according to its website. Staff will be mandated to wear gloves and though the guidelines don’t require them to wear face masks, the chain says it's “strongly encouraged.”

Used equipment like bike shoe rentals, the company says, “will be rotated so that they’re never worn two classes in a row. We’ll only rent them out once they’re entirely disinfected and dry,” the company said on its website. And the free amenities included in the $34 class like gum, complimentary phone charging and razors will no longer be available to limit “hand-to-hand” contact.

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Other boutique fitness studio chains like Xponential Fitness-owned Pure Barre, YogaSix and Club Pilates, will also make members sign coronavirus-specific waivers of liability.

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Big box gym 24 Hour Fitness is also planning contactless check-in, and fitness machines inside the gym will also be spaced between 6 to 8 feet apart for social distance. Its clubs may also start rolling out capacity limits beginning at 25 percent and amenities like the spas and saunas will also stay closed.

Other fitness franchises like Gold’s Gym -- which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week --  meanwhile have reopened 23 of its locations in Tennessee, Wyoming and Georgia with social distancing measures in place. And Orangetheory fitness will reopen some of its franchised locations in Georgia next week requiring members to wear masks when they work out.

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But even with gyms reopened, it's still likely that many members may refrain from returning until the spread of the virus slows. Plus, online fitness programs and live-streamed workouts have proven to be more affordable and just as effective for some so privately-owned studios risk losing long-time clients.

Elisha Matier runs on a treadmill at Gorilla House Gym in Altoona, Pa., Monday, May 4, 2020. (Patrick Waksmunski//Altoona Mirror via AP)

BeachBody, which streams on-demand workouts, has seen its membership increase by 300 percent and usage up 100 percent since mid-March when COVID-19 first broke out. And home fitness equipment company Peloton saw sales surged 66 percent in its first-quarter earnings with more people working out at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

And ClassPass, a subscription service that lets people take workout class at various fitness studios and gyms started to live-stream workouts like Pilates, barre and HIIT in March priced for free and up to $20 per class. More than 50 percent of digital customers have joined virtual classes hosted in studios outside of their city, the Wall Street Journal reported.