Gym owners thrilled to open again, do ‘what we love’

Advocates say a calm approach and scientific data helped gyms in their quest to reopen

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Sara Hodson didn’t expect to be thanked by Dr. Bonnie Henry for her work with health authorities at Tuesday’s announcement that gyms and fitness studios can gradually reopen on Jan. 20.


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The Health Ministry’s new order requires seven square metres of space per person within a group class for both individual and group classes. All group fitness and exercise classes have a capacity limit of 25 people. Vaccine cards and masks are required for staff and encouraged for patrons.

Hodson, president of the Fitness Council of Canada, said she was just relieved.

“We were very satisfied, and relieved, that our voices were heard and our industry was given the respect it deserved,” said Hodson, who, along with her colleague Carl Ulmer has worked closely with the Ministry of Health to have gyms safely reopened.

“We approached our advocacy in a sound, calm manner, with a goal to understand what provincial health needed and to prove we could do that and keep staff and members and the public safe,” said Hodson, who also owns Live Well Exercise, a White Rock gym that caters to those who need extra support or have barriers — whether physical or psychological — to exercise.


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Restrictions on bars and nightclubs — which are closed if there is no food service — will remain. Capacity limits of 50 per cent at venues like theatres, sports events and swimming pools will also remain.

Nicole Whitman, owner of Coquitlam studio Yoga Generatio, said she’s excited to reopen.

“All I’m hearing from people is how much they need to work out, how much they need that structure in their lives and about how their mental health has been affected.”

Whitman estimates her business has lost between $15,000 and $20,000 since gym and group fitness was shut down Dec. 22 and is “cautiously optimistic” about getting up and running again.

Hodson said that like other facility owners, she was “shocked and blindsided” by the closure announcement in December.


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“We reached out with questions and data to show the benefits of exercise,” said Hodson.

That included a 2021 Glasgow study that revealed regular physical activity could cut the risk of COVID-19 fatality by 37 per cent and reduce the chance of catching the virus by 31 per cent.

“There is no time like now to be active. Our work with the provincial government and Dr. Bonnie Henry’s office shows that staying away from fitness was a bigger risk than the risk that COVID-19 has within our walls,” said Hodson.

“We are walking on eggshells that at any moment they could shut us down again,” said Whitman. “This is what we love to do.”

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