The Canadian fitness industry right now is like a ship bobbing along in the stormy North Atlantic.

It’s a modern vessel fueled up, well provisioned, and the will to navigate the choppy waters. The captains on the bridge are in lockstep with one thought: we are built for this.

So why is the coast guard ordering us back to port?

Most modern gyms are easily retrofitted to meet and exceed government health guidelines to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including the social distancing requirements. This does not include the smaller studios with low ceilings and inadequate ventilation. Many of today’s newer “boxes” are cavernous, making them optimal to keep clientele safe and thriving.

Many fitness centers blazed the trail adopting virus prevention protocols, including fogging machines, PPE supplies, hand sanitizers, class sign-ins, and temperature checks. Gyms offer some of the best health protection in our public spaces right now.

So if a proven track record on safety isn’t reason enough to keep gyms open, what is? Health and wellbeing. Because fitness centres have less to do with developing chiseled six packs and more with promoting overall mental and physical health of its members.

As we sail into the dark, blustery winter, preserving our welfare through fitness may be the ultimate siren call.

Don’t think of gyms as a place of physical vanity. Think of gyms as a haven to soothe the burden of modern living. A place to fortify body and soul against colds, flu, and the pandemic itself.

Fitness is not the only way to maintain wellness—but it’s an essential component. Think of the important roles our mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons play in their communities. These citizens have a reverberating impact on our daily life. We need as many healthy Canadians as we can get right now. We’ll all be better for it.

Fitness Chases the Blues

The Ontario government says it’s committed to preserving the small business economy, heavily broadcasting this message on TV and other media.

But unless I’ve missed the Morse code on this, it seems as if it’s more important to order take out from a small firm than it is to let people buy a gym membership. Yes, we need to eat but a fit person who adheres to health protocols is less likely to need a ventilator and a scarce hospital bed than a sedentary individual.

Sure, the fitness industry would like to return to profitability in the long run. We are grateful for government wage subsidies and rent relief programs. But this is not about short-term gains. This is what we can do to give back, even support beleaguered frontline health workers.

Right now we are choosing to burn lanterns in our captains’ wheelhouses for our communities. It’s about being there for people who’ve been there for us; it’s about supporting one another. This is the greater calling, one that many of us in the sector are taking to heart.

When the Titanic struck an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland in 1912 the shortage of lifeboats was a deadly calamity.

We should look at fitness as a lifeboat to transport us to a safer place. Society is not unsinkable, and that’s why we need multiple measures to help us through these dark days, including helping people shore up their respiratory systems.

The fitness industry has earned its sea legs after relentless waves of changes in rules, bylaws and shutdowns. This is the captain’s deck radioing to the coastguard: We are built for this. Let us steer our ship out of the coming tough months and toward a better year in 2021.