Gyms and fitness studios have vowed to nearly double social distancing measures if they are allowed to remain open in Victoria during strict new lockdown requirements as owners urge the government to classify them as an essential service.
Melburnians can only exercise for 1 hour outdoors and within 5 kilometres of their home under the city’s Stage 4 lockdown.
Going to the gym, playing golf and fishing are now banned under the harsh measures.
Victorians elsewhere will move to Stage 3 restrictions from Thursday, which means gyms and fitness studios including yoga and pilates will close again.
Some gym owners have offered to implement social distancing restrictions of 1 person per 7 square metres, nearly double the standard 1 person per 4 square metre rule in a bid to stay open.
They say it will be enough to stop sweat droplets travelling between members during heavy exercise.
Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish said it’s disappointing that exercise is not classed as an essential service.
‘I think the mere fact we have the government talking about the importance of exercise in these times of increased anxiety is mixed messaging,’ he said.
Many gyms are large enough to open with a further cap in numbers and had already implemented strict cleaning procedures and online booking systems to maintain class numbers.
‘People are getting very anxious, very stressed. We know it’s vital for people to maintain mental health,’ he said.
‘It seems very strange that exercise hasn’t been classified as an essential service but chiropractors, physiotherapists can open, exercise should be considered in the same way as allied health.’
Personal trainers are surprised gyms have been ‘lumped’ in the same category as day spas, casinos and entertainment venues.
Jane Posselt has been a personal trainer for 11 years in Melbourne and said it’s devastating not to be able to work with her clients.
She said she could still run a class and maintain 1 person per 7 square metres.
‘Anything that would get us back in the gyms would be good, the longer that we are away, the harder it is. For people with children it’s the one time that is their time, for people on their own it is a little bit of socialization,’ Ms Posselt said.
The trainer introduced Zoom sessions during the first lockdown and is doing that again with a more structured approach.
She said doing ‘ball slams’ with a cushion instead of a kettle bell doesn’t have the same impact, but she’s trying to keep motivated.
‘I have to stop thinking about what’s going to happen, if I think to much about the impact it could have for the future it makes me feel sad and to depressed so I try and stay positive,’ she said .
Mr Elvish said members had contacted him with concerns over clients suffering from severe anxiety due to the ban.
‘I’ve had personal trainers contact me who can no longer maintain an exercise program with people with high mental health needs, in one particular case a woman with anorexia had just started to put on weight under a monitored exercise program, there’s a risk she will revert back to old patterns,’ he said.
Mr Elvish said gyms and studios depend on safe practice and that he would expect the law to be enforced if anybody didn’t follow government guidelines.
‘These businesses depend on safe practice, if anyone is going to follow these programs to the letter, it’s a personal trainer. By definition, people who work in the health industry want to look after their clients,’ he said.
‘They don’t have to be touching them, they can be giving the encouragement people need in these times with COVID-19 safe guidelines being adhered to.’