With the gyms reopening across the country, some fitness fanatics are tentatively returning to their newly sanitized haunts.
However, with more people coming up with creative ways to exercise from home, local fitness establishments may continue to have lowered attendance in the coming months, though they remain hopeful for the return of their clientele.
A RunRepeat study found that almost half of pre-COVID-19 Texas gym members will not be returning to their gyms, despite another study confirming that people are exercising at greater rates than before the pandemic.
“With gyms closed and members hesitant to return, people have been curious about how this has impacted people’s exercise habits,” RunRepeat Fitness Research Director Nicholas Rizzo said. “I knew this crisis would be one of the biggest disruptors this industry has ever seen. The results confirmed it.”
Local Piranha Fitness owner Lindsay Greening said the movement toward healthy living during the pandemic is a good sign that people will soon return to small gyms to rejoin the fitness community.
“We are thrilled that exercise rates are increasing,” Greening said. “We expect it to be a slow start, but we are hopeful that it will rise again. We strongly believe that community is important in health and wellness, so we know that people will want to continue using boutique fitness studios like Piranha Fitness.”
When it comes to larger establishments, attendance is more uncertain. The A&M Student Recreation Center opened to 50 percent capacity this week, continuing to protect patrons by enacting strict social distancing protocols and cleaning regimens, as well as requiring masks while not working out in the Rec.
Rec Sports Director Rick Hall said while he remains optimistic that many students will want a normal gym setting, there will definitely be a decrease in attendance as students take precautions to keep themselves safe.
“My instinct would be there are probably lots of students who want to return to normal, being involved in all the things they are — classes, recreation, student organizations,” Hall said. “I would expect there to be some individuals that are concerned to be in larger groups and the Rec Center would be a larger group. If there’s concern for their safety and well-being, then no, they wouldn’t take those risks.”
While students may be hesitant to attend gyms, Hall said Rec Sports plans to continue informing people about the Rec, the options and events available and how the staff is keeping everyone safe.
“What we’ve tried to do with our program effort is by offering something for everyone, and we’re doing an emphasis on wellness and well-being now,” Hall said. “Wellness and exercising were at all-time highs pre-pandemic. I think you’re going to start seeing those numbers come back in every case. People realize the value and the benefit and that it’s more than just physical wellness.”
While the future remains uncertain as Texas faces record-breaking spikes in COVID-19 cases, Greening said she believes that the community’s genuine concern for local establishments will encourage members to return as soon as they feel safe.
“We pride ourselves on the experience we give our clients, and we have increased measures to give a more personalized experience, because we believe that making our members feel seen and recognized is something they can never get from an online platform,” Greening said. “We know that the virus isn’t going anywhere, but our client’s safety and comfort is our number one priority right now.”