Press review of COVID-19

Here you will find current media articles about the coronavirus from the fitness and health industry.

Swiss fitness centres face a wave of bankruptcies in summer

In this article, Claude Amman, President of the Swiss Fitness and Health Centre Association, comments on the financial situation of fitness companies. From a financial point of view, the opening has not been worthwhile for most operators so far, according to the fitness association. The reason is the high fixed costs. In fact, according to the latest industry report, rental and personnel costs can account for up to 60 per cent of turnover in an average year. To make matters worse, since the reopening on 19.4.21, the businesses have only been operating at 40 per cent capacity. This means that fixed costs are not covered. 

Two-thirds of all businesses in the fitness industry are sole proprietorships. As a rule, they have much less financial leeway than large chains. Some fitness centres have gone bankrupt despite hardship payments and short-time work. The industry association expects another wave of bankruptcies in the summer, when many people spend more time outside than in the fitness rooms. Many operators are therefore waiting in vain to be able to take out new subscriptions at the present time.

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Dyspnoea not detectable

Dr Steven Shein and his colleagues at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland studied the effects of wearing a cloth or surgical mask on heart rate and gas exchange in a larger group of adults. The 50 subjects were between 29 and 45 years old. Almost every third participant suffered from a relevant disease such as asthma or high blood pressure. The measurements were taken both at rest and during brisk walking, in each case without mouth-nose covering, with appropriate protection made of fabric or with a surgical mask.

When seated, the different mask models had no effect on the parameters studied. During brisk walking with the surgical mask, the heart rate was on average two and a half beats per minute higher than during the same exertion without face covering – a difference that, according to the scientists, should not be clinically relevant. No effects on the gas exchange could be observed The probability that the gas exchange is disturbed by the mouth-nose protection is close to zero, the researchers state. And this applies equally to healthy people and people with asthma or hypertension.

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Mandatory masks with exceptions – Guidelines for wearing a mask while training in the gym

Beginning on Monday, fitness studios are open again. Studio operators have strict safety concepts that have been worked out by IG Fitness in cooperation with the Swiss Federal Health Department BAG. Only under precisely defined conditions, which are examined in more detail in the following article, can you – as an exception – train without a mask.

In the fitness centres, assures the managing director of IG Fitness, Roger Erni, the regulations will be strictly adhered to, as the regular inspection of the studios in autumn had already shown. Erni also emphasises that the gyms have trained staff who ensure compliance with the protection concept and support the trainees in implementing it.

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In the neighbouring country Germany, the press mentions the reopening of the studios in Switzerland as well with articles like the following:

Corona lockdown ends: Switzerland opens its gyms

Published under the original title: Corona-Lockdown endet: Die Schweiz öffnet ihre Fitnessstudios

The Swiss Federal Council has made a pro-sport decision and decided that gym workouts will be allowed again from Monday, 19 April 2021. Representatives of the fitness industry are relieved.

“We are pleased to be able to offer our members a perspective again and are doing everything we can to protect those who train from the virus with optimal measures. To this end, the protection concepts will be consistently implemented as before,” says Roger Ernie, Managing Director of IG Fitness Schweiz.

Members can resume their training with some restrictions: Training on equipment and participation in group classes up to a maximum of 15 people is possible again, but wellness will continue to be prohibited.

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Some relief for sport

Swiss Olympic welcomes the opening steps decided by the Federal Council. They mean a certain relief for part of Swiss sport in the current situation.

The cautious relaxation steps decided today by the Federal Council open up a certain perspective for sports federations, clubs and athletes in the three areas of exercise, competition and the public. Accordingly, Swiss Olympic is satisfied for the moment with the Federal Council’s decision.

Jürg Stahl, the president of Swiss Olympic, assesses the opening as a positive influence on the resilience of many people. After all, the sports club is a place where joint movement takes place. However, Swiss Olympic is aware that the situation remains challenging for all involved and creativity is needed to get people moving within the protective measures.

For many athletes, fitness centres are important as a complement to their activities. The fact that the Federal Council is now allowing them to reopen is also seen by Swiss Olympic as a positive step.

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Fitness operators rejoice over Corona relaxations

The fitness industry breathes a sigh of relief! The Federal Council is allowing workouts in gyms again. What the restrictions are, whether you have to wear a mask – and what the gyms have to say about the reopening.

Admittedly, there are restrictions and the same regulations apply to gyms as last autumn. For example, according to the Federal Council, a maximum of 15 people are allowed to take part in group training sessions and masks are compulsory. For individual workouts on the machines, things get more complicated and zones are divided up with an upper limit of 15 people. And: the wellness areas will remain closed for the time being.

This will make a utilisation rate of up to 60 per cent possible, as Roger Erni, Managing Director of IG Fitness, says. With his  organisation, he represents the larger fitness chains in Switzerland and is relieved, although he would have wished for a higher occupancy rate. Roger Erni emphasises that the gyms would have an important task in this pandemic: “It’s about preventive health”.

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Physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48 440 adult patients

Scientific research groups at American universities and hospitals conducted a study on the course of COVID diseases in relation to physical activity. The research was aimed at comparing hospitalization rates, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and mortality in patients with COVID-19 who were either very inactive or adhered to WHO recommended levels as a minimum.

Subjects in the study were 48 440 adult patients with a COVID-19 diagnosis from January 1, 2020, to October 21, 2020, and were related to each patient’s self-reported physical activity category and risk of hospitalization, ICU admission, and death after COVID-19 diagnosis.

The result was that patients with COVID-19 who were consistently inactive had a higher risk of hospitalization, ICU admission, and death due to COVID-19 than those patients who consistently adhered to WHO guidelines as a minimum for physical activity.

Thus, the conclusion of this study is that consistent adherence to physical activity guidelines is strongly associated with a reduced risk of severe COVID-19 illness and progression in infected adults. The lead physicians in this study recommend that efforts to promote adequate physical activity by health care providers need to be strengthened and integrated into routine medical care.

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Fitness studios in England reopen as report shows 40,000 COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented by better health of those with the disease

The sector’s work has never been more important, according to a new report on longevity, Levelling up Health, published last week, which reveals that the pandemic has exposed huge health inequalities in UK society. Ninety percent of the people who died from COVID-19 had significantly poor health beforehand. Shockingly, the report shows that there would have been 40,000 fewer deaths in the UK to date if the national COVID mortality rate had been as low as in the least deprived places in the UK.

The industry research conducted by ukactive – which has been endorsed by the government – proves that gyms are regulated, COVID-safe environments, and members can be confident that going to the gym will not only improve their fitness, health and resilience, but also keep them safer from the virus than almost anywhere else. Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said, “Reopening gyms, pools and leisure facilities is vital to our nation’s physical and mental recovery after such a challenging year.”

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Lack of exercise is a global killer

Coronavirus kills millions of people worldwide. So does inactivity, though there are big regional differences

A paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looks at the impact of physical inactivity on 15 diseases such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer and dementia, as well as the associated deaths. For all of these diseases, the link with physical inactivity has been scientifically corroborated.

The minimum requirement for an active life is 150 minutes per week for activities such as brisk walking, etc., and 75 minutes for intense activity such as cycling, swimming, etc. Only 75% of adults worldwide meet these recommendations, and the trend is downward. Physical inactivity is particularly pronounced in rich countries. Here, nearly 40 percent of adults are now considered physically inactive, with the rate doubling between 2001 and 2016.

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Fitness industry in a state of emergency

The forced closure burdens many businesses – and their customers

Leading voices in the industry have their say in this article and paint a disturbing picture of the financial situation of fitness providers – but more importantly, of the health situation of their customers.

“Weight room” was yesterday: so these days there are more and more studios that cater to much broader segments of the population, says IG Fitness CEO Roger Erni, quoted in this article. Almost 1.2 million Swiss citizens (14% of the population) are members of a center. By comparison, football clubs have 282,000 members, gymnastics clubs 248,000, tennis clubs 164,000 and golf clubs 90,000.

A shock for the industry, which has grown by 81% in recent years and is used to success: according to the industry report of the Swiss Fitness and Health Centre Association (SFGV) for 2020, a good 30,500 employees work in the studios. Last year, sales amounted to CHF 1.37 billion. The smaller businesses and individual suppliers in particular have suffered massive hardship as a result of the many closures.

However, it is not only the fitness businesses that are doing badly, but above all the members – and the employees. The majority of customers no longer train or train far too little, say the interviewees. What happens to the human body when physical activity is drastically cut back from one day to the next? If young, healthy adults took only 1,500 steps a day instead of 10,000, massive physical changes were seen after just 14 days, explains Patrik Meier, COO of the fitness chain Kieser Training.

But the 30500 employees are also increasingly frustrated because they are no longer allowed to work, he said.
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Great commitment, limited interest

Many fitness, dance and yoga studios offer online videos or live classes. But does this help them reach their clientele?

Many fitness, dance and yoga studios offer alternatives to training in the studio during the Corona crisis, also in central Switzerland. But only a portion of the customer base is taking advantage of the offers, and the number of customers who continue to subscribe is down from before the lockdowns.

Not only the dance studio, but also the university sports register fewer participants than before the lockdowns. The Hochschulsport Gampus Luzern (HSCL) offers courses for students and staff of the three Lucerne universities and has around 16,000 members. There are now 29 training sessions a week in 13 different sports, including Zumba or climbing strength training. So far this year, more than 1800 people have attended the Zoom lessons.

The observation remains that online offers are only a stopgap solution for most customers and are not even used by many. This is also confirmed by Patrick Meier, COO of Kieser Training. During the Corona crisis, the Kieser Group lost six to ten percent of its customers in central Switzerland. For the remaining customers Kieser Training offers videos with exercises and explanations on PDF. In addition, the website and Youtube channel feature lectures, podcasts and tips on health topics. The company stresses that this is a compromise in the current situation and not an alternative to training on the machines. “The videos are only viewed when the studios are closed. The video with a lower back exercise gets the most views. »

Nevertheless, Meier estimates that the market in the fitness sector will grow – but he believes that the growth in the health sector will be even stronger in the coming years. This is not about ideals of beauty. He explains, “The current situation exacerbates health problems.” That is why the musculature decreases, the fat percentage increases, the functionality of the cardiovascular system decreases and complaints increase. “The consequences of this will keep us busy in the coming years,” the COO of Kieser Training is convinced. “The big question is: How many people will come back if we’re allowed to reopen? And how many, in the meantime, have ended up with a doctor or in physiotherapy instead of training?

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Working in a home office makes the weight increase

The first results on the physical activity behaviour of the Swiss population from the Covid 19 Social Monitor are alarming. Just under a quarter of people moved less during the first lockdown than before. But eating habits also changed in the home office. Initial findings from the MIS Trend Study show: Clearly more snacks are being consumed at home.

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Roy Salveter is the sports expert at the Federal Office of Public Health. He warns of lack of movement in lockdown.

Roy Salveter is a former elite cyclist and sports expert for the FOPH. In an interview with the Aargauer Zeitung, he expressed concern that the Swiss population would have less exercise due to the restrictions during the pandemic and would therefore struggle more with obesity in the future. He fears that the positive development in the area of exercise and nutrition of the last 12 years will not continue.

He points out that even in the first lockdown, while a certain percentage of people actually moved more, a much larger percentage moved less. The exercise recommendation of 150 minutes per week was significantly undercut during the restrictions.

Roy Salveter summarizes that although there are not yet so many facts as a basis, a German study shows an increase of an average of one kilogram of body weight in the first lockdown. This is due to the predominantly sedentary nature of the work in the home office, which is even more pronounced than in the office, as there is no need to go to the shop or to the printer or coffee machine at the other end of the building. The health consequences of constant uninterrupted sitting should not be underestimated.

Nevertheless, he does not see the need for a state-mandated post-pandemic fitness programme, as Switzerland is basically quite well positioned. On average, the population is more active than in other Central European countries, which also has something to do with the good sports structures in Switzerland.

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Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2021

For the last 15 years, the editors of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® (FIT) have circulated an electronic survey to thousands of professionals around the world to determine health and fitness trends for the following year. This survey guides health and fitness programming efforts for 2021 and beyond. The year 2020 is the most memorable in many of our lives, especially those of us in the fitness industry. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. For that reason, this 15th annual survey of fitness trends will have the most impact it has ever had on the industry. For example, new to this year’s survey was the inclusion of potential new trends such as online training and virtual training. The results of this annual survey will help the health and fitness industry make some critical business decisions for future growth and development

Online training went from the no. 26 trend in 2020 to the no. 1 trend for 2021 probably because of the shift in the market from clubs to homes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wearable technology took over the no. 1 spot in 2019 and 2020 and is now no. 2 for 2021. HIIT, the no. 1 trend in 2014 and 2018 is now the no. 5 trend. Group training had been the no. 2 trend in 2018 and 2019, no. 3 in 2020, and fell to the no. 17 trend for 2021. Training with free weights (which replaced barbell training in 2020) was the no. 4 trend in 2020 falling to no. 8 for 2021. Personal training is still in the top 10 but falling to no. 10 for 2021. Fitness programming aimed at older adults had regained some popularity after falling out of the top 10 trends in 2017 and is no. 9 for 2021. Body weight training first appeared as a fitness trend at no. 3 in 2013 and has been a top five fitness trend since that time realizing a peak as the no. 1 in 2015 and is now still at the top being the no. 3 trend for 2021. Other trends to watch are outdoor activities (no. 4), virtual training (no. 6), and EIM (no. 7). Dropping out of the top 20 were circuit training, worksite health promotion and workplace wellbeing, and exercise programs specifically designed for children.

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Regularly exercising competitive athletes show more effective response to influenza vaccination than control group

The authors used seasonal influenza vaccination to investigate the effect of regular physical training on vaccine-induced immunity in a group of competitive athletes and a control group. The blood values of 45 athletes and 25 control subjects were examined before as well as 1, 2 and 26 weeks after vaccination with regard to the relevant factors.
Both groups showed a significant increase in vaccine-reactive cells, which peaked one week after vaccination. The increase was significantly more pronounced in athletes (4.1-fold) than in controls (2.3-fold). A significant increase in influenza-specific antibodies was measured, which in turn was more pronounced in athletes. Similarly, the increase in neutralizing antibodies was greater in athletes. In summary, both groups built up strong vaccine-specific cellular and humoral immunity after standard vaccination, but it was significantly higher in the athletes.
CONCLUSION: The more pronounced increase in specific T cells and neutralizing antibodies in competitive athletes suggests that high training frequency and intensity enhances a vaccine response.

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New study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit shows: Good fitness may protect against severe corona consequences

Those who exercise benefit: Physicians at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, together with international researchers, have investigated the question of what role physical performance plays in the individual course of a SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Inactivity as a relevant risk factor: Using different regression analyses, Clinton Brawner (study leader and senior bioscientific medical officer preventive cardiology) and his team found that patients with poor fitness levels were significantly more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit.

The results highlight that exercise and good fitness levels are associated with a lower risk of upper respiratory tract infections such as COVID-19, and further suggest that active people generally cope better with such an infection.

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CEN is developing standards for the operation of gyms during a pandemic CEN Technical Specification for Operating Clubs in Covid-19 Restrictions

Under the leadership of CEN (European Committee for Standardisation), a working group of experts is developing urgent standards for the operation and management of health clubs during an infectious outbreak – such as the Covid 19 pandemic. This includes certain hygiene measures in fitness centres, which are intended to minimise the spread of a pandemic virus and to make the stay in the fitness centre as risk-free as possible for fitness staff and customers. This article summarizes the most important points concerning the procedure for the preparation of this standardization. One of the main purposes of this work is to keep the fitness facilities running and to ensure that people remain physically active, thereby making a significant contribution to maintaining and improving people’s social, mental and physical wellbeing.

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Damn hard to lift

After the renewed closure of the fitness studios in the Valais on 22 October, there is a lack of understanding among the operators: many people would get the feeling through the second closure that fitness is dangerous in connection with Corona: “But this is demonstrably not the case”, added one of the affected owners of a studio. Like his colleagues before him, the operator of another fitness studio stresses that up to now not a single positive case from fitness studios is known. The protection concepts had been implemented down to the last detail. The distances in the cloakrooms, for example, have been scrupulously observed over all these months. While operators recognise the urgency with which the authorities need to tackle the rapidly rising number of cases, the Commission has not been able to do so. However, they are bothered by the fact that their fitness centres are classified by the Valais State Council as leisure facilities like a theatre or a bowling alley. This also goes too far for other studio operators in the Lower Valais. Three of them have therefore lodged an administrative complaint with the Valais Cantonal Court. The measures ordered by the State Council against the further spread of the virus would be tantamount to a professional ban for them, according to the justification.

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ClubIntel study provides new figures on the international fitness market

Market researchers at ClubIntel surveyed operators worldwide as part of the study ‘The Fitness Industry’s Re-Awakening Post-COVID-19 Facility Closures’ and provide new insights from a variety of global markets:

  • How is the international fitness and health industry doing after the Corona lockdown and country-specific reopening?
  • How sensitive are customers and members in the face of current developments?
  • And how do fitness professionals see the future of our industry?

Stephen Tharrett and his team have studied these and many other questions in depth and recently published their report on the subject. There are some answers in this article.

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Sports halls take legal action against their closure

The professional association France Active, which unites, among others, various fitness centre operators, had filed 16 urgent appeals against the violation of the fundamental freedom with the administrative courts of the department and was proven right: The closure of the sports facilities in Rennes, according to the administrative judge, “seriously and directly undermines the economic and financial situation”. The closure of all sports facilities in Rennes ordered by the authorities at the end of September was thus declared invalid. In Toulouse, gyms and other sports facilities were also able to resume operations a few days ago.

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Fitness despite Corona: Who still works out?

The article titled Fitness Despite Corona: Who Still Exercises? is on 2.10. 2020 appeared in the Aargauer Zeitung and addresses the risks and opportunities associated with Corona in the fitness studio industry. Many members continue to come to the gyms and comment positively about adhering to the protection programs. Nevertheless, according to the Swiss Fitness and Health Association (SFGV), current visitor numbers are on average 30-40% below those of the previous year, but with considerable variations across the sector. The vendor Migros, for example, was able to record significantly higher visitor frequencies after the reopening than in the previous year. In this article, sports business expert Stefan Ludwig from the auditing firm Deloitte explains why the industry is likely to recover from the crisis and that we are more likely to see a consolidation market than a crowding-out market for the major suppliers due to long-term growth in demand.

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Gyms struggle with Corona fallout for a long time to come

Fitness studios are a billion-dollar business; about one in seven German citizens is a member of a fitness facility. The Corona pandemic was a severe setback for the industry. Due to the Corona pandemic, gyms in Germany were forced to close from mid-March to mid-May or early June, with the time period varying by state. Many of the patrons returned to the equipment or mats immediately after reopening, which was seen as a positive in this situation. President of the German Fitness Studio Association DSSV Birgit Schwarze explains the relatively positive figures in her view with the general trend towards greater health awareness. Schwarze does not see any long-term damage from Corona, such as general skepticism about indoor sports with other people in close proximity. The studios had strict hygiene concepts, she said, and she was not aware of any cases of new corona infections in a gym.

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Manifesto for sports centres to continue to actively contribute to the system to combat COVID19, both in the prevention of infection and in the recovery of those affected.

A statement from the National Federation of Sports Facilities FNEID and the Espana Activa Foundation assesses the situation around Covid-19 and visits to gyms as follows: A recent study from England shows that for every 100,000 visits to gyms, only 0.34 positive cases of Corona can be detected. These results are in line with a study at the University of Madrid, which will run until October and whose results will be published in the next few weeks. The protection program in the Spanish studios is very extensive and, according to current knowledge, is rigidly adhered to. The opinion concludes with five points that summarize the relevance of gyms for the Spanish population as facilities for immune-boosting activities and to increase general health in the fight against covid-19.

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Off to the gym after summer? Fitness centers have 40 percent fewer visitors and hardly any new subscribers because of Corona

This article summarizes the economic situation of gyms and highlights the uncertainty in the population by Corona. For fear of infection, some of the fitness subscribers still stay at home. To be sure, many existing customers are proving to be understanding and are even foregoing time credit with smaller providers during the March to May lock down. Nevertheless, potential new subscribers are more cautious and prefer to wait out the situation. Fitness centers are therefore increasingly investing in digital offerings. However, the infrastructure cannot be transferred to the network, and larger chains seem to be doing better, some of which are even expanding. However, with a share of 28 percent, larger chains make up the minority of all Swiss fitness centers.

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