Dec 29, 2021 - Health

Omicron threatens New Year's gym surge

Picture of a row of treadmills, with only two being used
Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Omicron variant is threatening the recovery of the fitness industry.

Why it matters: January is an extremely important month for the industry, which thrives on New Year's resolution memberships. But mask and vaccine mandates prompted by Omicron are creating new obstacles going into 2022.

Gym groups have urged congressional leaders to provide pandemic relief to fitness centers, saying they have received little help compared to other pandemic-hit industries like restaurants and airlines, per The Hill.

  • "The appearance of another COVID variant, coupled with discussions around re-instituting mask mandates and further restrictions to address the increase in COVID rates, demonstrates the ongoing struggle and uncertainty our industry faces heading into January and February, the two most important months of the year for fitness facilities," said Community Gyms Coalition and the Global Health and Fitness Association (IHRSA).

Details: Data shows that in mid-February, visits to gyms were down 30% compared to 2019, hitting a record low for the year but had rebounded by early December. However, Omicron had only just been identified in late November and has since spread rapidly.

  • In 2019, there were approximately 40,000 fitness facilities. By the summer of 2021, 27% of gyms and studios permanently closed, according to the IHRSA. Additionally, the fitness industry lost 47% of its workforce during the pandemic.
  • Globally, gyms, studios, and in-person fitness classes saw a 37% revenue decline in 2020, per the Global Wellness Institute.

Zoom in: Marc Thomas, who owns 40 Orangetheory Fitness locations in California, told the Wall Street Journal that revenue for his best gyms is 30% lower than that before the pandemic.

  • Some gyms in Ohio do not expect to get membership increases until after the winter surge, according to a local CBS affiliate.
  • In Indiana, some YMCA facilities lost 50% of memberships during the pandemic, while numbers have increased by 75%, they are yet to reach pre-pandemic levels, the News and Tribune, a Southern Indiana local newspaper, reports.

What we're watching: The University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that infections in the U.S. are set to reach record highs in the next two to three months, with daily infections expected to peak at 2.8 million in mid-January.

  • Infections detected through testing are expected to top out at a little over 400,000 cases a day in the U.S.
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