Fitness and exercise studios may be physically closed in Canada since mid-March, but the industry has been adapting through the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis and it will also see significant changes in the future.
“Many organizations have been offering free online classes and other solutions in order to keep members healthy through this pandemic,” said Scott Wildeman, President of the Fitness Industry Council of Canada.
“Physical and mental health go hand in hand, and we are proud of how our industry has stepped up in the face of such adversity to take care of so many Canadians. We look forward to being able to open our doors again to welcome everyone back in person, but until then, we will continue to best support Canadians with their physical and mental well-being.”
The Council has more than 5,000 facilities in Canada and the association represents about 500 locations across the country.
Wildeman is also a partner with GYMVMT in Calgary and Edmonton.
“I think when we reopen in the short term you’re going to have people that are concerned about going back to the facility. There will likely be regulations about the number of people that can come into a facility or a certain part of the facility in any given time,” said Wildeman. “So I think it will be a phased, slow entry back into normal life.
“A lot of facilities have added remote services to be able to accommodate people not only now but as well as when they reopen. I actually can see a time when people are going to the facility a couple of times a week and then working out at home a couple of times a week using the remote services.”
Wildeman said people may see more segmented areas in the future in fitness clubs and studios which will be designed to accommodate traffic flow. Clubs might remove some cardio equipment and they might make sure that the cardio equipment is pointed in the right direction so people aren’t breathing on each other.
“In Europe it’s very common where cardio equipment actually faces each other to create kind of a social vibe. That probably won’t be happening anymore,” he said. “And you might see equipment more spaced out and with traffic a lot more wider walkways and potentially different rooms to do different exercises in to cap the number of people.
“We’re learning right now because China is starting to reopen and some countries in Europe are starting to reopen. We also sit on the global federation of fitness associations, so we actually get to learn some best practices from other countries and see what they’re doing. Club design is part of it.
“Also basically looking at different segments of a facility and almost booking appointments to go in.”
Wildeman said the health and safety of facilities will be paramount with a diligent effort to clean, sanitize and wipe down equipment. Prior to closure, fitness facilities were already ramping up their cleaning protocols because of the soon-to-be health crisis.
“I think some of the clubs were some of the cleanest places you could be,” he said.
“Members were disinfecting equipment before and after use. Staff were disinfecting high touch areas all the time such as the door handles and things along those lines. I think you will see that ramped up even more.”
The key for the future is the expansion of remote offerings by fitness clubs and studios.
“A fitness studio needs to do that if they’re going to survive. So I think you’ll see a blend of both in home and in facilities. People still really love the social dynamics of a facility. There’s nothing like working out with your workout buddy or a group of people. Social distancing and those restrictions that will have to follow will limit that to an extent but people will still crave that social interaction but I think they’ll have a blend of working out at home with technology and working out in a facility.”
In the future, said Wildeman, there will also be more smart equipment from a technology point of view.