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New IHRSA Data Shows High, Growing COVID-related Closure Rates for Fitness Facilities

Posted: January 29, 2022 in IHRSA

IHRSA: The Global Health & Fitness AssociationIHRSA: The Global Health & Fitness Association

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, IHRSA, the Global Health & Fitness Association, unveiled new industry data showing yet another increase in the number of health clubs, gyms, studios that have closed since this time last year.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, 25% of all fitness facilities have closed across the country, and 30% of studios closed as of January 1, 2022, an increase of 11% since January 1, 2021, which has left the industry looking to Congress for support.

The health and fitness industry has been disproportionately affected by state and local government closures. Gyms were among the first businesses mandated to close and the last businesses allowed to reopen. Gyms were consistently tied to restaurants, bars, and live events venues for state closures and other mandates. However, gyms have not received the same consideration as these industries when it comes to federal relief. Unlike restaurants and hotels, gyms did not receive a waiver from the SBA’s affiliation rule resulting in many gyms being unable to access Paycheck Protection Program support due to the employee cap and how SBA counts employees.

The new data underscores the dire threat gyms are facing and why Congressional action is vital. And though optimistic about future support from Congress, IHRSA’s president & CEO, Liz Clark, is concerned about the lack of federal focus on physical health.

“With the CDC recommending physical exercise as a solution to combating the spread and severity of COVID-19, I am shocked that the federal government has done so little to support neighborhood gyms and studios,” she said. “With each wave of the pandemic the small business owners in our industry keep getting knocked down, and because of past failures by Congress, each time fewer of them get back up. We can’t wait anymore, especially with the rise of additional COVID variants. Congress must act now to save America’s community gyms and studios.”

As Congress develops emergency COVID relief legislation, IHRSA strongly urges Congress to establish a recovery fund similar to the GYMS Act of 2021 (H.R. 890/S.1613). This proposal provides grants to affected businesses in the health and fitness industry. This aid will be the first federal assistance most gyms would have access to and would allow gyms to retain their staff, make COVID safety improvements, and cover normal business expenses in order to keep their doors open.

IHRSA is working with the bill’s sponsors to ensure that gyms are included in any relief vehicle. One of the GYMS Act champions, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), said, “This recent data shows that as COVID has continued to impact the country, gyms and fitness facilities have remained one of the hardest hit industries. Even during the limited periods when restrictions on gyms have been lifted, gyms and fitness facilities have had no way to contend with the expenses accrued during periods of closure.

“The Omicron variant’s rise this month has also stunted what is typically a peak business period for gyms. Congress must provide this struggling industry, that plays a crucial role in Americans’ health, with the vital support it has and continues to need in order to survive.”

More on the data can be found here.

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