It’s been a rough year for fitness studios and gyms. COVID-19 shuttered thousands of fitness locations across the country, leaving millions of Americans high and dry when it comes to getting fit. Many people tried their best to stay active at home, but there’s nothing like visiting your local gym for a full-body workout.
The Global Health and Fitness Association, or IHRSA, is shedding light on the financial toll the pandemic has had on the industry. Now, several members of Congress are coming together to bail out gyms across the country.
Gyms Go Dark During the Pandemic
Earlier this year, the IHRSA released a shocking report on the status of the fitness industry. Four indicators show just how bad the pandemic has been for wellness clubs across the US:
- Industry revenue plummeted 58% during 2020.
- 17% of fitness facilities closed permanently.
- Eight major fitness companies filed for bankruptcy, including Gold’s Gym and 24-Hour Fitness.
- One million industry employees lost their jobs.
Keeping clubs open and clean became unfeasible for many companies. Many consumers say they didn’t like the idea of wearing a facemask while working out. Capacity limits also made it hard for gyms to make a profit. Meanwhile, demand for at-home exercise equipment has been through the roof. Companies like Peloton have reported record profits, up 232% from 2019.
What is the GYMS Act?
Earlier this year, several members of Congress, including U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), introduced what’s known as the GYMS Act, or the Gym Migration and Survival Act (H.R. 890/S.1613).
The bill calls for $30 billion that would go towards keeping gyms financially afloat until the pandemic is behind us. It would cap funds at 45% of the facility’s 2019 revenue, or $20 million, whichever is less. However, severely impacted health and fitness businesses, those with just 33% revenue or less during the most recent quarter compared to 2019, would be eligible for an additional grant, up to 25% of their initial grant. The most any business can receive would be $25 million.
Congress has already approved billions of dollars in financial aid under the CARES Act. Many companies have since filed for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, but industry advocates say health and fitness firms were largely cut out of earlier relief packages, which is why more aid is needed.
The authors of the bill argue that the pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on the fitness industry. As many companies tried to make the best of this difficult situation by serving customers outdoors or taking their services online, fitness organizations had few alternatives. As the IHRSA says, “There is no curbside pickup for fitness.”
Like the PPP loans, the funds would go towards payroll costs, rent, utilities, interest on debt accrued before the pandemic, taxes, and complying with the latest state, local, and federal restrictions.
According to a January survey from the Gyms Coalition, less than 50% of small gyms and fitness studios expect to survive through 2021 without federal support.
Why Saving Fitness is So Important
Many industries have lost revenue, including the travel, entertainment, event, and hospitality industries, but fitness centers are different. Ensuring access to gyms is crucial for public health. It’s well known that regular physical activity increases life expectancy and reduces the rate of chronic disease, including type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease. These are some of the most expensive and difficult conditions to treat. Investing money in health before these conditions affect people could save countless lives down the road. Exercise also increases the body’s immunity to viruses and pathogens, including COVID-19.
Gyms and fitness centers are also considered the lifeblood of the communities they serve. For many people, their local gym is key to developing and sustaining interpersonal relationships. These facilities also provide services that are essential to the health and success of the community, including childcare, adult education courses, physical therapy, sports, recreation, and even kindergarten classes.
Fitness should be a part of everyone’s life. Don’t forget to support your local gym and consider signing up for a class or membership today!