Why Gyms Matter

Here’s something that you may know: Americans are not healthy. This was a fact before the current COVID outbreak that has ravaged our country. Data from the CDC from 2018, states that over 40% of our adult population is considered obese. As any medical professional will tell you, obesity often leads to many other serious health issues including coronary disease and diabetes. It can also make it more difficult to fight off infection, like from, say, a coronavirus.

Here’s something that we have always known: exercise and diet can help people lose weight and be more fit. Being more fit makes it more likely that your body can fight off an infection, like from, say, a coronavirus.

We have also always known that a great way to get exercise is in a gym. Gyms provide the perfect environment to exercise, lose weight, build muscle strength and increase stamina and health. They are also great places to socialize, make friends and get motivated. But gyms have been closed since mid-March and many are facing new and unprecedented challenges as they gear up for reopening. Not only are they looking at a population that may be reluctant to return to public places but also an economy in the depths of a deep recession. How well the gyms are able to respond and recover will have deep ramifications, not just for the fitness industry but for society as a whole.

GYMS matter.

Exercise is important to your health: One of the reasons that the mortality rate of the COVID virus is so high in the US is because of the underlying health of the population. According to the CDC, for the years 2017 – 2018, the US passed a regretful milestone of having over 40% of the population considered obese. Of this, a stunning 9.3% is in the category of severely obese. Obesity leads to many other health issues including coronary disease and diabetes, both contributing factors a body’s inability to fight off a virus. There is almost universal consensus among physicians that participating in physical activity will increase muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness, bone and functional health, energy, balance, and

weight control and lower the risks of depression and many chronic diseases (hypertension,

coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, various types of cancer). It will also boast your immune system and make it more likely that you will recover from a virus like COVID-19.

Participation in Fitness in the US is still low: In spite of all of the evidence supporting participation in fitness, according to the Global Wellness Institute (“GWI”), less than 30% of the US population maintained a paid membership to a fitness facility in 2018. While gym membership can be viewed as a discretionary spend, when you consider the many health benefits associated with being fit, as compared to the risks of not, it’s a very small price to pay. Plus, there are many low cost options that can be as inexpensive as $10 per month. Less than some people spend at Dunkin’ Donuts every day.

The Societal Cost of not being fit are very high: As we have seen, there is an enormous public health cost associated with having an unfit population. This is not just about the strain put on the healthcare system but also the impact on insurance rates, employee attendance and productivity and drug costs. Some employers and insurance companies have figured this out and have started to subsidize gym memberships. Governments need to start to play a bigger role in this as the benefits clearly outweigh the costs.

We are an increasingly isolated society: Even before COVID, we were becoming more and more isolated. So much time spent in front of screens or alone in our cubicles have made us less social. So many members of Gen Z are incapable of carrying out a live conversation if it’s not via text. The gym is a social environment where you can be around other like-minded people, get motivated and learn new things. Time at the gym allows us to exercise both our bodies and our minds. The gym becomes not just a place to get and stay fit but a destination to have social interactions.

Home workouts are not as good: Even before COVID, the introduction of new at home fitness technology started to keep some consumers home for their exercise. There is an excellent variety of world class equipment available offering on-demand classes that push the participants to maximize their heart-rate and endurance. These products are gaining a loyal and growing following and have achieved even more acceptance during the COVID lockdown. But at home fitness requires a self-motivated, disciplined user to get the maximum benefit. You need to push yourself from your den to your bedroom (or vice versa) without ever changing the environment, the mood or the energy level; and haven’t we been stuck in houses long enough? While the sustainability of these newer products is still unknown, historically most at home fitness products go through an arc of usage: extremely intense at the beginning and then fizzling out over time. The treadmill in the bedroom, initially used every day, is now a place to hang dirty laundry. Gyms provide not only a social environment, but also motivating one. A place to work out around other motivated people. There is an energy level in a gym that sets the perfect mood for your workout routine. Well run gyms are always getting new, upgraded equipment and adding classes to keep the workouts fresh and exciting.

More than ever before, our society needs fitness centers. We have learned from this pandemic that we need to be more focused on all aspects of our health. This extends beyond medical but into physical and mental, both of which are addressed through fitness. Gyms and fitness centers provide a safe, professional environment to allow for the best and most sustainable workout regimen. As the full medical and socio-economic impact of this pandemic slowly gets played out, gyms and other fitness centers will play a vital role in helping our country recover and be more prepared for future outbreaks. We must do whatever we can to support this industry.

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