Opinion: Fitness centers play a key role in public health

Adam Hollier

In the melee of a public health emergency, leaders everywhere try to do whatever they can to protect people. It’s a big responsibility, and clear answers are not always available to provide direction.

Closing gyms and fitness centers at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was the right thing to do at the time. After all, it seems like a place where people sweat, breathe heavily and share exercise equipment would be a prime place for trading illness.

However, data from the Michigan Fitness Club Association shows that 1.35 million visitors to 100 member gyms between September and early November have resulted in only 26 cases of COVID-19 — a .00192% positivity rate.

Gyms and fitness centers are where people go to improve their health and build their strength, both of which bolster the immune system, Hollier writes.

As this year has progressed, the medical community has learned some important things about COVID-19 and fitness centers, and leaders have come to realize that a properly run operation is critically important to helping its members.

Gyms and fitness centers are where people go to improve their health and build their strength, both of which bolster the immune system.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, it has become abundantly clear that the disease brings its worst outcomes to people in poor health or who have underlying medical conditions. Getting and remaining fit has never been more important to everyone.

This pandemic has affected the poor and communities of color at disproportionately high rates. Gyms, particularly those with reasonably low member rates and plans, are the most feasible option for people who cannot afford to build a gym in their home or who lack options for exercising safely outdoors in their neighborhoods. The issue of health equity is real and demands consideration from leaders everywhere.   

But perhaps the most important thing the medical community has learned this year is that gyms and fitness centers can be operated in ways that do not present a threat to spreading COVID-19. When issues like sanitization, air flow and human spacing are properly addressed, a local fitness center is far more likely to save your life than jeopardize it.

This fact has been proven by leaders in the fitness community, and as a legislator, I have been working with state health professionals to focus on creating standards in partnership with the fitness community.

Like many people, for me, working out has been critical to surviving this pandemic. Unlike many, I have a robust home gym, years in the making. During this pandemic we must be focused on making things as safe as possible. This must be led by science, medical professionals, and the data collected by our local health departments.

The Chicago Medical Society has implored Chicago leaders to do whatever is necessary to keep fitness centers open as we head into the winter months and COVID 19 levels rise around the nation. I don’t believe this is important only in the Windy City — it is a prescription for healthy communities in Michigan and around the nation.   

State Sen. Adam Hollier, D-Detroit, represents the 2nd District — the Wayne County communities of Detroit, Gosse Pointe, Hamtramck, Harper Woods and Highland Park.