With all 50 states taking the first steps into a post-corona world by reopening crashed economies -- Connecticut will join the reopening party by Wednesday -- fitness centers will have to restore customer trust with social distancing in mind.
Many gyms, health clubs, and yoga studios are still closed, but the ones that are reopening have adopted strict social distancing rules and new sanitation protocols. The pandemic has led to wild consumer shifts, essentially transferring the whole workout experience from a retail setting to at-home, forcing some gyms during lockdowns to file for bankruptcy as operators were left struggling to pay rent in their large retail locations.
Latest gym bankruptcies:
- 24 Hour Fitness Prepares For Bankruptcy
- Muscle'd Out: Gold's Gym Files For Chapter 11 Due To Government Lockdowns
A major problem with fitness centers has developed, they must restore confidence among customers because, in a post-corona world, at-home workouts, such as Peloton has dominated the scene -- and will like continue to be the preferred workout of choice for the remainder of the year, or at least until there's a proven vaccine.
To get a glimpse of how gyms in the US could restore confidence among customers -- Twitter handle Ben Lucas tweets a picture of how his gym in Hong Kong has installed social distancing walls around exercise machines.
According to CNBC, who dug deeper into the story, they said the Hong Kong gym is at Pure Fitness in Quarry Bay. A representative of the gym said, "dividers help to stop the spread of the virus when 1.5-meter distance, in line with Hong Kong government's suggestion, cannot be easily maintained."
Here's another view of Pure Fitness' social distancing walls, this time around treadmills.
Back to the US, the White House Guidelines for Opening Up America indicates that gyms are in the first phase of reopening "can open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols." CNBC says gyms in Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee and Oklahoma, have already opened.
Kevin Heffernan, professor of human performance at Syracuse University, said gyms have stacked exercise machines tightly into a close space. "They're not ideally designed for social distancing," he said.
"You generate a lot of sweat, and people are breathing really hard," Heffernan said, which could lead to a transmission of the virus.
To get a view of how a sneeze travels in an indoor space - watch how a single cough disperses across several supermarket aisles in this simulation. Now just imagine if that was in a gym...
Gyms have an uphill battle in winning the support of customers -- social distancing walls around exercise machines are likely coming to America. At the moment, who in their right mind would step foot into a gym when they can easily take a Peloton class in the comfort of their own home and not worry about COVID-19 carriers...