Gyms are ‘part of the solution’ to pandemic

Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau proposed gyms as “part of the solution” to the coronavirus pandemic, with fitness and exercise helping to combat issues such as obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Rondeau told “Sqwak Alley” that fitness should be viewed as a sector of health care, given that exercising can help minimize or alleviate health conditions that have been linked to great health impacts when contracting the virus. He said he expects people to have a renewed interest in exercise after the pandemic, given its link to health.

“If you think about it, gyms are really a part of the health care delivery system, and to shut us down is conterproductive,” Rondeau said. “We really are part of the solution, not the problem.”

Gyms and fitness centers have been among businesses hard hit, as they have often been the last to reopen in local economies. Gold’s Gyms and 24 Hour Fitness have both filed for bankruptcy. Some gyms have moved classes outside in an attempt to make up revenue lost to the pandemic.

Rondeau said 1,450 Planet Fitness gyms are open out of 2,000 total. A handful of states still have locations closed under state guidelines, including Arizona and California, which had allowed gym reopenings then moved to close again as cases spiked.

With cases on the rise in some states, having protocols in place to ensure peace of mind for customers and workers is a priority for Planet Fitness, Rondeau said. Masks will be required in all locations beginning Aug. 1, he said, and employees receive daily temperature checks. 

There are ongoing concerns as to the future of gyms and fitness studios given recent data showing more than half of Americans do not plan to go back to their gyms. The online survey from TD Ameritrade found more than 56% of those surveyed said that the pandemic helped them find “more affordable” ways to get exercise. 

But Rondeau said customers have reported being excited to be back to in-person working out, as at-home exercise does not offer the same variety available at the gym. He pointed to the low cost of Planet Fitness – $10 per month compared with the average person in that survey spending around $170 every month on fitness – as another reason customers will return to his gyms. 

“Home fitness has been around, let’s say, since Richard Simmons – it’s been around forever,” he said. “Personally, I have a gym in my basement – I’m lucky enough to have a basement to have a gym in – but I work out at my local Planet as much as I can, and the experience there and the excitement and the atmosphere is unbeatable.”

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