The iconic Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago is among the city's fitness facilities which have been able to keep their doors open to members – despite lockdown-style restrictions – after convincing the city's mayor that gyms are safe.
The sector undertook an orchestrated lobbying effort through the Illinois Fitness Association (IFA), uniting fitness operators in the city and its surrounding regions.
Operators also secured the support of the Chicago Medical Society (CMS) – a body representing more than 17,000 physicians and licensed healthcare professionals across the region – which sent a letter
to the city's Mayor, Lori Lightfoot and Governor of Illinois JB Pritzker, urging them to keep health clubs and fitness centres open for additional time each day, to enable those working in the medical sector to have time to exercise.
"Our physicians and licensed healthcare professionals would not enter an environment that they felt was unsafe and we feel that it is critical to allow them the opportunity to get back into a regular fitness routine, offering innumerable benefits to both their physical and mental health, especially as we enter the winter months," reads the letter.
"Data demonstrates that health clubs are safe environments, which is important because prioritising health and fitness is more essential than ever.
"We believe that the responsibility is equally shared between the facility and its members to ensure a safe environment."
Midtown's Athletic Club's president, Jon Brady, said the decision by the mayor to allow fitness facilities to operate longer hours was a victory for the sector.
"This is a huge win for our industry," Brady said.
"Despite increased restrictions (stay at home advisory) being imposed across Chicago and Cook county, Mayor Lightfoot has specifically excluded health and fitness.
"We are vital and we have the support of the CMS backing us up. We ARE part of the solution. We ARE safe. We ARE essential."
Richard Earney, national programme director at Midtown, added: "Letters like the one sent by the CMS make a difference and give the industry hope for a brighter future.
"Illinois Fitness Association (IFA) was formed during quarantine and rallied the Illinois industry together, putting standards in place, speaking as one voice, to the right people.
"Our Industry has a positive impact on people’s physical and mental health."
Rising levels of COVID-19 levels in the state mean further restrictions may be imposed at some point, but for now, gyms are able to operate and also welcome health care professionals through their doors.• To read an interview with Steven Schwartz, CEO of Midton Athletic Club,click here for Issue 8 of HCM.