Representatives of Alberta’s fitness industry are calling on the government to further loosen restrictions around gyms, arguing there is little evidence high-intensity workouts have led to the spread of COVID-19 in the province.
Blake MacDonald, the president of Orangetheory Fitness Canada, called on the government Wednesday to allow for group high-intensity group workouts with instructors and proper distancing. If they are not going to allow for such activities, he called for further financial support for owners of fitness centres and a tax credit for customers who want to support their local gyms.
“The current state of restrictions are a minefield of impossibilities to manage and quite honestly, it’s impossible to differentiate between high intensity fitness and low,” said MacDonald Wednesday morning.
Photo by David Bloom David Bloom /David Bloom/Postmedia
Premier Jason Kenney announced on March 1 that low intensity group and individual workouts are allowed at gyms and fitness centres. High-intensity group workouts are not permitted, however high-intensity workouts with a trainer are allowed as long as the individuals involved keep their distance from others working out. Health Minister Tyler Shandro clarified that a workout is considered high-intensity if the person is breathing heavy.
“Trying to determine which businesses can and can’t be open based on their intensity is unfair,” said MacDonald. “For example, put me in a yoga class, you probably think it was high intensity. For this reason, it’s impossible to enforce the current restrictions that are in place.”
Grady Topak, co-founder of YEG and YYC Spin Cycle, said that data shown to industry leaders by Alberta Health show there was very little spread of the virus at gyms.
“Ultimately, only 110 cases were attributed to open or attributed to fitness facilities,” said Topak. “Out of the 110 known cases, one of which came 65 cases came from one outbreak in Calgary in July of 2020.”
Sherene Khaw, a spokeswoman with Alberta Health, did not confirm those numbers Wednesday. She said the province has a clear stepped approach to re-opening.
“We know that some activities pose higher risk of exposure than others, including high intensity fitness activities that consistently increases the rate and depth of respiration,” said Khaw in an email. “As Dr. Hinshaw has also stated, there have been past outbreaks and transmission tied to every setting and sector, including various group fitness activities.”