Previously, in March, gyms in L.A. were required to close for three months. Because of the overwhelming numbers of coronavirus cases in California, Governor Newsom, on July 13th, once again required that indoor fitness centers be closed until further notice. Because of the initial shutdown in March, many people had been hesitant to return to gyms once they had reopened in June. “The first shut down had not made us [business owners] lose hope, however with this second order, I have witnessed many fitnesses, both small and large, begin to seriously consider closing down,” admits Carlos, a fitness center manager in Los Angeles.. Almost 60% of customers cancelled their gym membership, especially those over the age of 60 that were vulnerable to sickness. Now, it is estimated that more than 70% of fitness members have cancelled memberships, and it is harder to envision people coming to renew their membership. This time, due to an increase in awareness about the pandemic, adults with young children’s memberships are also beginning to cancel.
It is not only gyms that are feeling the impact, but also group fitness classes, such as pilates and cardio kickboxing, have lost many participants. “There are worries about working-out indoors with little ventilation”, an employee from a fitness club reports, “so we had focused on limiting the size of classes and ventilation within rooms”. Classes were also cut down from fifty minute blocks with ten minute break times to forty minute blocks with 20 minutes of resting time. Gyms also attempted to incorporate other methods using Zoom to teach classes online, but were mostly met with complaints on the quality of the classes. With most struggling to adapt amidst the sudden change, some locations have come up with tactics such as moving the fitness equipment further away from each other to increase safety, even installing shower curtains in certain sectors. Another site had closed off every other machine to increase social distancing, in accordance with Newsom’s recommendations. However, despite these efforts, customers have not been returning to gyms, and fitness centers have closed once again without the guarantee of reopening any time soon.
Now that the cash flow within businesses has stopped, gyms have begun to cut down on their workforce. Most fitness centers were previously reliant on the Paycheck Protection Program loan provided by the government, which allowed them to continue to pay their employees, however even with the government issued loans, most businesses are no longer in a position to be able to provide for their employees during this hard time. From now on, it is expected that there will be more layoffs and bankruptcies within fitness clubs.
It is imagined that the fitness industry will begin focusing on methods to develop an outdoor solution. Although, at the moment, it seems that the fitness club industry has taken a large hit due to the pandemic, employers are hopeful that businesses will flourish once again after a solution to COVID is provided. As long as there is no cure to the illness, the public will continue to be hesitant to enter fitness centers, and the industry will continue to decline. We can expect the fitness industry to experience a boom, but only after things have settled.