The county’s largest chain of fitness clubs is encouraging its members to take part in a letter- writing campaign to urge provincial officials to re-open gyms.

In an email blast sent out to members, GoodLife Fitness is encouraging them to write letters to Premier Doug Ford, Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams and Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Lisa MacLeod.

“As we all know, the fitness industry in Ontario is currently facing serious challenges as a result of the global pandemic,” the letter to members reads. “Between mandated shutdowns, capacity restrictions, and ongoing questions about the safety of fitness facilities, our industry is facing the most difficult time in its history.”

As part of modified Stage 2 restrictions in place in Ottawa and across much of the GTA, gyms have been shuttered to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

The letter calls for the “swift reopening” of closed clubs and the prevention of any further closures.

The campaign is being led by the Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC).

In an interview with CP24 Tuesday evening, FIC President Scott Wilderman said people across the country are being negatively impacted by a lack of access to fitness facilities.

“We want to bring great awareness as to what is happening with our sector,” Wilderman said. “We feel that we offer a vital service for people across the country. Fitness and exercise play a vital role in the physical health of Canadians but also the mental and emotional health of Canadians and during this time people are really being impacted.”

He said the industry is working with government and doing everything it can to make fitness spaces safe. He pointed to “millions” of check-ins at fitness clubs across the country since the pandemic as evidence that the industry is overall doing a good job of keeping those spaces safe.

Gyms that are open in the province have implemented a range of measures such as scheduled workout times, capacity limits and masking to try stop the spread of COVID-19.

He said that while clubs are closed, they have to continue to pay rent, as well as cover payments to suppliers and other expenses.

While the federal and provincial governments have announced supports in the form of rent relief programs and special funds for shuttered businesses, the details are still being hammered out, leaving many fitness business uncertain about the future.

“You know this is really creating a very stressful situation,” Wilderman said.

Under public pressure last week, the government announced that dance studios would be allowed to reopen and the fitness industry is hoping that they will be allowed to follow suit.

“We’re really trying to show that we're doing everything we can to create a safe environment, a safe space for people to exercise and we're really feeling that that is going overlooked,” he said. “But we are encouraged with what's happening with the dance studios, and we hope that we will get the same.”

In a statement to CP24, a spokesperson for MacLeod said that “protecting the health and well-being of all Ontarians” is the government’s top priority and that their decisions are being guided by medical advice.

“Since the start of this pandemic, we have been guided by our team of world class public health care experts, who have advised us if and when restrictions need to be implemented,” the statement read. “As a result of the growing spread of COVID-19 in Toronto, Ottawa, York and Peel regions, additional restrictions have been placed on gyms and fitness facilities on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.”

The statement did not say when restrictions might be lifted, but reiterated that the provincial government has created a $300 million fund to help businesses shuttered by COVID-19 restrictions. The details about how that money will reach businesses have not yet been released.  

However the statement said the government is working to make the money “available as soon as possible to cover fixed costs.”