BOONE — Health and fitness is a big industry in the United States, but all businesses have had to reckon with the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to German statistics company Statista, more than 60 million Americans are members of the 41,370 health and fitness clubs in the U.S., which helped the industry surpass a $96 billion market size in 2019.
However, when the pandemic hit many had to shut down temporarily, and since have reopened with restrictions as a way to slow the spread of the disease.
Locally, gyms and fitness centers felt the strain of closing, and upon reopening were unsure of what the future held. According to a poll by NPR and Marist in 2019, 29 percent of adults who made a New Year’s resolution made one with the intent of exercising more, losing weight or just getting healthier. The stereotypical “New Year’s bump” is used in fitness marketing, and Bob Brewer, owner of Anytime Fitness in Boone, said that 2021 still saw the bump despite the pandemic.
“It’s been the same pretty much this year that has been in the past, I think people are just very, very anxious to get back in the gym,” Brewer said.
Brewer noted that if a person has exercised frequently and then takes an extended break, it can lead to a loss in muscle mass or strength. He said that the downturn in physical activity combined with many people’s desire to get out of the house helped the business get back to full strength. However, the pandemic does not skip days at the gym, leading to new precautions and worries.
High Country Yoga Owner Briana Kidd said that when the studio’s classes started back up in June, they were held outdoors. With the weather having frozen the idea of outdoor sessions, Kidd had to come up with other options.
“In February, we will be reopening our doors for very small, socially-distanced classes as well as studio rentals with a complimentary projector to stream classes for those who want a quiet space away from home for their yoga practice,” Kidd said. She added that masks would be required and temperature checks would be conducted before entry.
Anytime Fitness also requires masks and temperature checks, but Brewer said a large part of it is the clientele itself. He pointed to the fact that at one point, gyms were considered one of the places someone would most likely contract COVID-19, and noted that the hyper awareness of health and fitness in the location has turned it in the other direction.
“People come to the gym because of health,” Brewer said. “This is a big thing for them. They’re very conscious, they do all the things like the three Ws, they’re all doing that and we promote that the gym. So I think people coming to the gym are much more health conscious than probably people just going into a normal retail store or restaurant.”
Brewer said that since the gym reopened, there’s been no reports to staff about anyone testing positive in relation to the gym, and they have been able to make it this far without incident due to their customers. However, not all gyms have ben as lucky as Anytime Fitness.
Little’s Health and Fitness in West Jefferson announced Feb. 2 that they would be strictly enforcing their policy requiring masks at all times after gym members tested positive for COVID-19.
One study claims Little’s is one of the outliers however. The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association conducted a study from May 1 to Aug. 1, 2020, of more than 2,800 gyms in the United States. The study found that of the 4.54 million check-ins by gym members, only 0.0023 percent resulted in a positive COVID-19 case.
Until the pandemic subsides, gyms and the rest of the world will likely continue under rules and conditions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Brewer said that government orders have people wearing masks while working out, social distancing and have prohibited a full, 24-hour access.