Unmasking the Truth about COVID & Fitness Centers



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Unmasking the Truth about COVID & Fitness Centers

Published on July 16, 2020
Chuck RunyonFollow
CEO, Co-Founder at Self Esteem

It’s time to Unmask the Truth.

Take a look at this video from a recent Today Show. It’s about an open letter that 60+ fitness industry leaders sent to America’s governors on July 7.

We laid out the facts: Available science points to personal health as our best available vaccine against Covid-19. Gyms, studios and personal trainers are essential parts of our collective mental and physical health.

I’m grateful for Today’s coverage, but wasn’t impressed with what happens at the end of the story. The hosts—Carson Daly, Craig Melvin and Hoda Kotb—try to be funny, and that’s fine, but their flippant and mocking reaction to exercise is a perfect example of our strange (and now deadly) cultural aversion to health and fitness.

The state of our health isn’t funny, and if we want to beat Covid, we need to immediately unmask these 5 truths:

Truth #1: Obesity kills. If we think Covid-19 is deadly, consider these numbers from the World Health Organization: At least 2.8 million people are dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Obesity increases the likelihood of a Covid-19 hospitalization 6-fold, because it spreads Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, stress, depression and hypertension.

Truth #2: Two in three Americans are overweight or obese. Two. In. Three. It makes me wonder, if 2 out of 3 Americans were illiterate, would TV hosts mock them for going to the library?

Truth #3: Americans are gaining weight, and physical activity has declined. In a survey of 2,000 members, Nutrisystem found that 76% have gained up to 16 pounds during the quarantine, and wearable data shows that physical activity is down over 20%.

Truth #4: Gyms are safe, and positive Covid cases are not tied to gyms.

  • Research from the University of Oslo found no Covid-19 transmissions associated with fitness centers. As a result, Norway reopened its gyms.
  • A recent survey of 135 clubs with nearly 3.5 million check-ins found 0.004% of positive cases reported as of June 30.
  • Though Covid cases are spiking in Arkansas, contact tracing shows that only 0.3% of newly infected people visited a gym.
  • Our brands—Anytime Fitness, Basecamp Fitness and The Bar Method—as well as the fitness industry, have vastly expanded their safety protocols to meet stringent health guidelines.
Truth #5: Exercise is medicine. Time after time, even moderate exercise has been shown to strengthen our immune systems. Yet with notable exceptions like Dr. David Katz, public health experts have not used this health crisis to emphasize the effectiveness of exercise, diet and sleep. Health experts should be talking about the importance of personal health, not just Covid-19.

Here’s the bottom line:

When it comes to Covid, the fitness industry isn’t the problem, it’s the solution. Our members make a conscious decision to improve their mental and physical health by working out.

Aren’t they worthy of having access to the gyms, clubs and studios?

Aren’t we all?



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It makes more sense to mandate masks along with allowing gyms to open and mandating separation as well.

My state of Colorado wisely mandated masks even inside gyms. The very worst case is to have people huffing on all those rows of treadmills and spinner bikes within 6 feet of each other. That case demands masks if the gyms are to be open at all.

Blood oxygen saturation measurements did not show that masks interfere with breathing or exercise performance. That has just been a fabricated excuse to be a jerk. There were those who believed trump over science BUT even trump has changed his tune. Apparently, masks now make America even more great.

The next step is to get gym members to sanitize machines before and after use. It is unlikely that trump will promote that because he never visits such places.

The argument regarding obesity is not supported by science. Even thin people can get covid and overtraining can reduce one's resistance more than would obesity. Even if I felt protected, I would not want to expose someone's parent or grandparent even if they were obese. Would any of our readers do that intentionally?

The fat most important for resistance and for longevity is intra-abdominal fat. Resistance exercise can reduce that without affecting subcutaneous fat at all. Sumo wrestlers provide a prime example.

On the other hand, aerobic exercise, as with those rows of treadmills and spinner bikes, is not particularly effective at reducing either intra-abdominal or sub-cutaneous fat. Diet alone reduces sub-cutaneous fat BUT without resistance exercise it appears to leave the dangerous intra-abdominal fat until last.

Here are a few more facts that have been known for up to a decade. One needs to follow the medical rather than "fitness" sites.

Exercise MIGHT reduce one's appetite but just as often increases it. Exercise DOES provide some benefit by reducing one's natural appetite for calorie-dense foods BUT too many people "reward" themselves with just those foods after a workout. Exercise does not burn additional calories over time. The body rapidly learns to economize when one is NOT in the gym and returns to the original burn rate.

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