The newly-released B.C. COVID-19 restart plan has a fitness industry leader feeling optimistic that the sector is on the cusp of parabolic growth.
Released May 25, the restart plan allows indoor low-intensity group exercise with limited capacity. As early as June 15, high-intensity group exercises are to be allowed, also with reduced capacity.
Come July 1, all indoor fitness classes are to be able to resume with usual capacity. The dates are subject to change depending on case counts and percentage of people in the province who have been vaccinated.
Semiahmoo Peninsula resident Sara Hodson, CEO of Live Well Exercise Clinic and co-chair of the BC Fitness Industry Council with Carl Ulmer, another Peninsula resident, said the detailed restart plan gives hope to an industry that has been thinned due to the pandemic. One-third of fitness business across the country have permanently closed and 75,000 people have lost their jobs, she said.
Significantly, the restart plan could break down a psychological barrier that’s preventing people from coming to the gym, and provide people with a level of comfort knowing that physical indoor exercise is safe, Hodson said.
“The U.K. is reporting that group fitness is back 600 per cent – this is a massive increase,” Hodson said. “People are flocking back to fitness. We see that fitness in B.C. will be a thriving industry in two, three, six months from now.”
Hodson said B.C. is the only province in Canada that has kept individual and personal training fitness sessions open since May of last year. She attributes that to the B.C. government and health officials’ willingness to hear from industry leaders.
Known as a competitive business, fitness companies across B.C., and Canada, have set their differences aside to form a provincial and national council. The initiative has given fitness leaders a voice and opportunity to sit at the table during policy discussions, Hodson said.
“We are ahead of the game here in B.C. We have fought hard to keep fitness open and available.”
The B.C. restart plan, with corresponding dates, gives the industry time to plan and hire ahead for the restrictions to be lifted, she said.
It seems the darkest days of the pandemic are in the rear view.
“There was a lot of things that we couldn’t control, just like the restaurant industry,” Hodson said.
“Who knew that having a big patio was going to be your survival strategy, right? If everybody had known that, they would have huge patios. Who knew that owning a fitness business in high-intensity fitness was going to be closed for the majority of the last year?”
“We know that fitness is safe. We know that the risks of being sedentary far outweigh the opportunity that people have to take care of their physical, mental and social health by being active,” she said.
“This is our time, and this is the opportunity for British Columbians to get back to play, to get back to moving their bodies and being active.”