Gyms safe to reopen under strict hygiene standards, says industry body

Fitness industry’s peak body believes gyms can be among the first facilities to reopen if they follow strict hygiene standards.

Fitness Australia, the fitness industry’s peak body, believes gyms can be among the first facilities to reopen if they follow strict hygiene standards and practice social distancing.

Fitness Australia says it has been working with government authorities, industry stakeholders and international counterparts, including UK Active, IHRSA, Exercise NZ and the World Health Organisation (WHO), to develop a comprehensive framework for the safe reopening of gyms.

The framework includes measures such as temperature checking on arrival, high frequency cleaning and sanitation, spacing of equipment through to PPE for employees and members, reduced capacity for classes and outdoor fitness considerations.

Fitness Australia CEO, Barrie Elvish, said the industry is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of everyone so gyms can reopen sooner rather than later as reported.

“The fitness industry, like all Australians, want to ensure there is no further spread of COVID-19 as restrictions are slowly eased back. However, there’s no reason why gyms can’t be one of the first sectors to reopen,” Elvish said.

“We believe gyms can safely reopen with social distancing and hygiene requirements in place, which is why we have prepared a strict reopening framework for all fitness facilities and personal trainers.

“Unlike other establishments such as bars, restaurants and retail outlets, gyms also have a key advantage when it comes to instant contact tracking, with all members having to swipe in and out or book in for a class. Should it be necessary, no other industry has the ability to provide to health authorities this real time data.

“The industry is committed and onboard to do whatever is needed to reopen. We all want to ensure gym members and employees have the peace of mind to safely return to the gym, do a workout or take part in a group glass.”

Scott Rozendaal, sales director of Spillz Australia, told Inclean gyms are high risk environments which will need to be cleaned more regularly – as much as three times a day – and with proper cleaning materials and methods.

“A gym is a high risk environment and if they are going to re-open, they will need to be cleaned more regularly. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is very prevalent in an environment like a gym because there’s an abundance of food source for bacteria – there’s a lot more energy being exerted and expelled. Cleaners will need to ensure that they are using proper and effective methods to remove any biomaterial from surfaces.”

Gym equipment surfaces are also known to harbour a range of contaminants due to the wide range of use of the equipment.

“Machines are most exposed to [contamination] as people using the machines are breathing heavily and exerting themselves, which creates a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. They also the most difficult to clean in comparison to other areas like the floors, showers or toilets. Cleaners need to ensure they’re using effective methods,” Rozendaal  said.

Bridget Gardner, director of HPC Solutions, told Inclean it is important gym owners ask cleaning companies the right questions about their qualifications and cleaning processes.

“Gym owners should ask cleaning companies about the qualifications their cleaning personnel or supervisors hold, and what hand hygiene, cross-contamination prevention, and cloth/mop laundering processes they have in place.

“A person who is infected by coronavirus, but still asymptomatic and unaware, will have the potential to shed more virus in a gym than in a normal building. They will be sweating, touching more equipment, and breathing harder as they exert themselves. Other gym members are likely to have more bare skin in contact with the surface and also breathing more heavily, exposing themselves to the virus.”

Gardner said it is important for gym members to use alcohol-based disinfectant wipe on every surface they touch. However, the handles of gym equipment often have textured surfaces for gripping, which makes it harder to clean away organic matter that could be carrying the virus with a single disposable wipe.

“It is imperative that more time is allowed for after-hours cleaning services, to ensure that every single touched surface is thoroughly cleaned before disinfecting. Disinfectants must be ARTG registered with specific claims of being antiviral.”

According to Gardner, who has recently released a new cleaning training manual, The Guide to Cleaning for COVID -19, floors should be vacuumed with equipment containing HEPA filtration and ideally, mopped with flat mops that can be more readily washed and dried. If there are carpeted floors in exercise rooms, they must be cleaned regularly with hot-water extraction carpet cleaning equipment.

Elvish said the role exercise plays in our overall health and mental wellbeing cannot be underestimated and it will become more apparent as restrictions are eased back.

“Gyms and the broader fitness industry will have a vital role in ensuring the ongoing health and wellbeing of Australians during and following COVID-19,” Elvish said.

“During the important phase of isolation, there has been a drastic increase in demand for mental health services such as Lifeline and Beyond Blue as well as a steep increase in alcohol consumption and online gambling.

“This coupled with people being less active has the potential to not only affect the long-term health of our whole community but also future health budget outlays.

“Exercise and a regular fitness routine play a very important role in maintaining an individual’s immune system and their overall physical and mental health.”

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