Petition demands Ontario boutique fitness studios reopen in coronavirus hotspots

Oct 21 2020, 9:33 am

A petition has been launched demanding that Ontario’s boutique fitness studios reopen in the province’s four COVID-19 hotspots.

The Save Health & Wellness Coalition and Ontario Independent Fitness Studios Association (OIFSA) “demand that the Ontario Government and Premier Ford treat boutique fitness studios in the Toronto, Ottawa, Peel and York regions fairly,” the petition states.

The coalition of studios represents more than 300 independent fitness facilities that provide physical and mental health services to communities across Ontario.

“The entire passion and purpose of our small businesses is to keep our communities healthy and improve their wellbeing. We are calling on the government to work with us to reopen boutique fitness studios without delay,” it adds.

The coalition called the province’s decision to close fitness facilities “arbitrary” and “not one that is based on data.”

With dance studios being allowed to reopen on Monday, the coalition says they don’t understand the decision to keep boutique fitness facilities closed.

“It gives the impression that the government is picking winners and losers, and we ask the government to be transparent and to stop portraying our small businesses as high-risk establishments,” the petition explains.

The coalition notes that boutique fitness studios are different from traditional, open-access gyms. Boutique studios only offer classes or organized activities, and a trainer is present with each person or group at all times. There are no open-format weight or equipment areas in the facilities.

“Essentially, boutique fitness studios offer the same services as dance studios: aerobic exercises performed indoors. Like dance studios, boutique fitness studios are able to operate safely with the same health and safety protocols including physical distancing, requiring that all members pre-register for classes, and limiting classes to a maximum of 10 people,” they add.

Because dance studios were allowed to reopen based on a cohort model, meaning that community transmission is reduced, the coalition argues that boutique fitness facilities are similar. They are membership-based, utilize booking systems, and generally have the same people attending the same class or organized activity each day — like a cohort.

The coalition also argues that since the start of the pandemic, research has shown that people’s mental health has worsened and that physical activity can improve mental well-being.

“The closure of boutique fitness studios coupled with the stresses of a second wave will undoubtedly create a devastating ripple effect across the province, likely leading to increased rates of depression and suicide,” the petition says.

On Tuesday, Ford said he would “look into” reopening boutique fitness studios.

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