Gyms and fitness centers will reopen in BC tomorrow and the community could not be happier. BC Public Health Officer Bonnie Henry announced the changes to last month’s restrictions during yesterday’s press briefing. While many residents were waiting for word, some businesses had already opened their doors. To some, it may have seemed like an act of rebellion but the reasons behind this movement deserve consideration; it turns out that public health officials have decided to agree. Here are the details surrounding this situation.
On December 22, 2021, Public health officials announced changes to BC’s COVID 19 mandate. All gyms, fitness centers, and indoor physical activities were ordered to close in order to protect the public from the omicron variant. To many, this didn’t make sense as retail stores and restaurants were allowed to remain open. All across BC, a general murmur was wondering why working out was not safe but Christmas shopping was.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, personal health has become a daily concern for mainstream society. If we as a society, took fitness for granted before the pandemic, we certainly don’t anymore. Without question, there is a critical connection between exercise, health, and maintaining wellbeing. If gyms and fitness centers are not going to be available to the public, there are people who are going to suffer as a result; For those that use exercise to manage chronic pain, injury rehabilitation, mental health issues, PTSD, or other health concerns, this is especially true. The potential for damage to the individual is only justifiable when it absolutely necessary.
On Vancouver Island, Anytime Fitness in Chemainus BC was devastated to hear the news. To the members and staff, this gym is more than a small business, it’s a place where you can find your fitness community. Although adamant that he did not speak for the business, staff member, Charles Borg was kind enough to tell us about his personal experience. “People have their training for their health and their mental health. Yeah, they come to the gym but it’s not about looking at yourself in the mirror. The vast majority of members come for physical and mental health, obesity support, addiction support and to boost their self-esteem. It’s about so much more than just looks. Then we have to tell those members that although they are doing so well, they have to put their lives on pause.“
On January 10, 2022, the rules quietly changed. Gym’s and fitness centers were informed that they could reopen, but only for one on one, personal training, and certified athletes. For many businesses, this provided little benefit and lots of frustration. While it was nice to be able to open their doors to some, they could not open them to all. On top of that, there was no information provided to help explain these changes. When it came to providing patrons with the reasoning, the owners and staff were left on their own. By having to turn away all but a privileged few, these businesses were put in a really tough position. Owners and staff were being forced to refuse income that they desperately needed; without being able to justify the reason behind it, valuable business relationships took an impact.
It began with a petition demanding information; specifically, the data surrounding covid transmission in fitness environments. According to Dr. Bonnie Henry, the coronavirus is transmitting “quickly” inside indoor exercise facilities. “What we are seeing is that this is passing so quickly in those indoor environments, even when we have lots of space and when we have been doing everything right.” However, she did not provide any evidence to back up the statement. To many, this simply wasn’t good enough and this became apparent over the holiday season. Feeling frustrated with the lack of transparency from the government, the petition quickly gathered over 50,000 signatures.
Operation Green Light
Yesterday, close to one hundred gyms and fitness centers collectively defied the public health order and opened to the public. This collective action was organized through social media and quickly became known as ‘Operation Green Light’. In what would appear to be a final act of civil disobedience, they refused to wait to get provincial approval and ask for forgiveness, rather than permission. Luckily, by 1:30 pm that day. the province changed the mandate to include a slow reopening of gyms and fitness centers.
To some fitness enthusiasts, the news of the reopening is a welcome relief but to others, it means the difference between life and death. “Diabetes was already killing me, Anytime Fitness Chemainus was there to help me battle this when I could not on my own.” – Joel, Anytime Fitness Chemainus Member