A new study out of Colorado discovered that gym attendance has not been linked to any COVID-19 outbreaks in the state.
The news comes as lockdown restrictions implemented by state and local officials across the country have resulted in gym operators having to close their doors for weeks and months on end in order to stop the spread of the virus.
The study was commissioned by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, after it said in October that its data showed only 1,155 cases of COVID-19 resulted from more than 49 million gym check-ins, or 0.0023%, the Denver Post reported. The organization then asked the Oregon Consulting Group, based out of the University of Oregon, to conduct an independent study to confirm or refute their findings.
The results were clear
The group analyzed gym attendance data against outbreak statistics provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment over a span of 32 from March 13 through October 15.
What they found was quite remarkable: Out of the nearly 8.5 million health club check-ins, none could be linked to the 59 outbreaks reported by the CDPHE. Outbreaks are events in which two or more people report that they contracted the virus.
"Based on Colorado data as a proxy, there is no correlation between health club visits and COVID-19 cases," the study concluded, adding, "relative to other public spaces like restaurants and bars, health and fitness facilities are lower risk environments."
The group noted it is possible that safety protocols and sanitation practices implemented by gyms may be a contributing factor in the results.
Based on the data, the consulting group is recommending that state and local leaders evaluate the data before barring entrance to health clubs within their jurisdiction.
"If we look at Colorado's record of self-reported outbreak ... gyms haven't made the list up to this point, but bars and restaurants certainly have," said OCG President Callum Kuo.
"We need to be reasonable and critical when it comes to evaluating relative risk. And based on what we see in Colorado, gyms do not belong in the same risk category as bars and restaurants," he explained. "We believe states need to examine their data more closely before hastily closing down gyms and instead making decisions based on what they are seeing in their respective states."
To the CDPHE's credit the most recent mandated closures exempted health and fitness centers.
"We have been talking to stakeholders, and we do not feel this is one of the higher risk settings because people are wearing masks at the gym. Gyms are ensuring social distancing and also cleaning their equipment. So we are comfortable allowing it," said the department's executive director Jill Ryan.