TORONTO -- The pandemic has been difficult for Canada’s fitness club industry and it appears some members may not go back to the gym even once their vaccinated.

“Coming into the survey we were hoping for better numbers, because our previous studies haven't shown very positive findings for gyms" said Nicholas Rizzo, fitness researcher with RunRepeat.

RunRepeat is an American-based athletic shoe review website, but it said its survey asked gym members in various countries, including Canada, about their plans to return to the gym.

Rizzo said only 15 per cent of gym members asked said they were currently back at their gym. About 29 per cent said they won't return to their fitness club even when they are vaccinated.

The survey found that 33 per cent of respondents have paused their gym memberships, while another 33 per cent have cancelled them.

While some members are concerned about contracting the virus at the gym, others have found new ways to get in shape by investing in home exercise equipment and online fitness programs.

“There is a drastic subset of gym members who found something that helps them achieve their fitness goals in another way" said Rizzo.

The Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) represents 6,000 fitness clubs across the country which have 150,000 employees.

Scott Wildeman, president of the council, said he doesn’t believe the survey is an accurate reflection of all fitness clubs in Canada, however he does admit that many clubs are currently facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic.

“We do have a larger population (of members) that is still frozen. They haven't reactivated their memberships yet and they are nervous. But I have talked to members who say they will be back once they get vaccinated and they feel safe" said Wildeman.

The fitness group said it anticipates gyms will make a comeback over time, but it's calling on the federal government to allow fitness memberships to be tax deductible.

Wildeman said if memberships were able to be written off as a medical cost at tax time it would help the industry as well as encourage Canadians to get in shape.

“That will really help our industry recover from this. We need to not only to get back to where we were, but we also have to pay back the debt that has been accumulated over the past year" said Wildeman.

FIC presented the idea of a medical cost tax deduction to Deputy Prime Minister Christie Freeland last month calling it a “win-win” situation for the Canadian public.