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This playbook is provided for Greater Des Moines (DSM) gyms, wellness and yoga studios and fitness centers. Please consult trusted resources specifically for the size and specialty of your facility.

Sample: 24/7 Fitness Center Risk Profile

Gyms Risk Profile Frequency

Gyms Risk Profile Duration

Gyms Risk Profile Variety

The sample risk profile has been determined for 24/7 fitness centers in DSM. The profile shows frequency, or how many people in a day; duration, or length of typical interaction; and variety, or the number of different people.*

Current Impact 

Current Impact

Future Trends 

Future Trends

Recommended Practices 

Recommended Practices

Community Partnership 

Community Partnerships

Additional Resources 

Additional Resources

Current Impact

Fitness facilities have suffered tremendous financial impact from the prolonged shutdown. The Global Health & Fitness Association estimates the U.S. fitness industry lost $20.4 billion in 2020. Further, 17% of fitness clubs and studios permanently closed in the U.S. and nearly 1.4 million staff members lost their jobs. There is no clear line of sight as to when member traffic levels will return to normal. Even with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout underway, the in-person fitness experience is still marred by fear. Thus, figuring out how to get consumers back to the gym after they’ve grown accustomed to working out at home is a top strategic priority.

Gym Interest Increase

Home Fitness Interest
Increased 436%

Gym Large Chain Layoffs

98% Laid Off by
Large Chains

Gym App Downloads

Surge in Fitness App


Fitness facilities themselves, however, have suffered tremendous financial impact from the prolonged shutdown. Chains 24 Hour Fitness and Gold's Gym have filed for bankruptcy due to pandemic-related closures, and an April report from investment bank Piper Sandler said many of the country's 40,000 independently owned fitness studios "may not survive" shutdowns. There is no clear line of sight as to when member traffic levels will return to normal. According to a July Morning Consult poll, only 20% of Americans said they'd feel comfortable going to a gym. Another survey, conducted by market-research firm OnePoll, found that 25% of Americans never plan to go back. Thus, figuring out how to get consumers back to the gym after they've grown accustomed to working out at home is a top strategic priority. Moreover, facilities need to convince members that their spaces are safe and virus-free. Implementing smart scheduling and maintaining expanded online services, such as continuing virtual group exercise classes, are tactics that can be used to engage clients to restart or continue their memberships.

Future Trends

Gym Capacity

Hybrid Model

The fitness industry will become a hybrid of traditional brick-and-mortar and at-home models. This will partially be consumer-driven as convenience, reduced health risks and synergies with disruptive technologies and consumer trends like wearables reinforce the staying power of at-home fitness. More fitness providers may take a dual approach offering virtual and brick-and-mortar gym subscriptions.

Gym Virtual Classes

Holistic Fitness

COVID-19 has pushed people to think about health more holistically. In addition to physical well-being, one’s emotional, mental and spiritual fitness has become a bigger priority. To that end, gyms may offer more holistic classes that connect the body and mind to strengthen total well-being.

Gym Virtual Group Exercise

Customer Service

Single-modality boutique gyms have a hard road ahead. Over the pandemic, consumers have invested in their home gyms. However, many clients will still need help actually doing their workouts. Brick-and-mortar gyms should double down on delivering customer service. Monthly memberships can include far more than just workouts, like one-on-one instruction, nutrition coaching and virtual check-ins with clients.

Recommended Practices

Health & Sanitation

  • Conduct a health screening with all employees before their shifts in accordance with the most up to date recommendations from the local public health department.
  • Encourage employees who feel sick to stay home. Employees who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should consult CDC guidance on when to self-quarantine.
  • Consider implementing health screening protocols for members as they enter the facility.
  • Staff and members who have a fever or other symptoms of COVID-19 should not be allowed to enter the facility.
  • Face coverings and any other PPE should be worn by employees and members in accordance with the most up-to-date recommendations from the local public health department.
  • Train all employees on cleaning processes, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
  • Have hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water or similar disinfectant readily available to employees and customers. Place at entrances and exits, exercise machines, fitness rooms, changing rooms, locker rooms and reception desks.
  • Strongly encourage members and staff to use hand sanitizer upon entering the facility and after completing their workout.
  • Establish a housekeeping schedules that includes frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces such as personal exercise machines and equipment, countertops, doorknobs, restrooms, shower and locker facilities and entrance/exit doors.
  • Ask patrons to disinfect individual exercise equipment, mats and machines before and after use with provided disinfecting wipes. If members are unable or unwilling to wipe/disinfect equipment after exercise, provide “ready to clean” tags for members to place on equipment after use, to ensure equipment is disinfected by staff before the next use.
  • Consider removing hard-to-clean items and equipment such as bands, rubber mats, foam rollers and yoga blocks.
  • Require employees to comply with guidelines on sanitation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the local public health department.

Gym Health

Process & Space Modifications

  • Modify or adjust cardio equipment, free weight areas, weight training equipment and fitness classrooms to maintain social distancing of at least six feet between patrons and employees.
  • If rearranging is not an option, place “do not use” signage and turn-off/unplug select equipment to allow for proper social distancing.
  • Limit the number of people in the facility at one time.
  • Consider implementing limited or contactless online reservation and check-in/check-out systems that will limit the number of people in the facility at one time (employees should be included in the count).
  • Consider offering or continuing to offer virtual classes and opportunities.
  • Stagger work shifts and break times where feasible to reduce the number of employees in common areas such as screening areas, break rooms and locker rooms.
  • Review current practices for all classes and fitness/training instruction while limiting and reducing the number of patrons in class settings.
  • Determine if you can make any additional changes to minimize the risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19, such as reducing class sizes, discontinuing in-person group fitness classes, moving to larger areas or holding classes outdoors, removing shared yoga mats and asking patrons to bring their own.
  • Use devices that do not require the employee to handle patron credit and debit cards and institute a cashless policy. If this is not possible, ensure that cash and/or cards are handled with care by employees either by changing gloves between each transaction or using hand sanitizer between patrons.
  • Move electronic payment terminals/card readers farther away from the attendant to increase the distance between the patron and the attendant.
  • Where possible, establish physical barriers between workers and between workers and patrons.
  • Install cleanable transparent shields or other barriers to physically separate employees and patrons where distancing is not an option (e.g., between pieces of equipment that cannot be moved).
  • Use strip curtains, plastic barriers or similar materials to create impermeable dividers or partitions.
  • Close or limit access to common areas where employees are likely to gather and interact, such as break rooms, outside the entrance and in entrance/exit areas.
  • Consider closing waiting areas and discourage patrons from entering the facility prior to their reservation time, if possible.
  • Encourage social distancing of at least six feet between patrons and employees in all areas of the facility, such as workout areas, classrooms, pools and saunas, courts, walking/running tracks, locker rooms, parking lots and in entrance/exit areas.
  • Ensure physical distancing requirements in showers and locker room facilities by, for example, closing off certain lockers and/or showers. If proper distancing and sanitization is not possible, these facilities should remain closed.
  • Consider making foot traffic single direction in narrow or confined areas, such as aisles and stairwells, to encourage single-file movement at a six-foot distance.
  • Use visual cues such as floor decals, colored tape and signs to remind workers and patrons to maintain distance of at least six feet from others, including around training equipment, free weight areas, at employee workstations and in break areas.
  • Staff and patrons should avoid shaking hands, bumping fists or elbows or other physical contact.
  • Consider closing water stations and water fountains, except for no-touch bottle refill stations. Encourage patrons and employees to bring their own water bottle.
  • Make sure the gym is well-ventilated.
  • Work with facilities management to adjust the ventilation so that the maximum amount of fresh air is delivered to occupied spaces while maintaining the humidity at 40-60%. If possible, increase filter efficiency of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units to highest functional level.
  • Portable high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration units may be considered to remove contaminants in the air of poorly ventilated areas.
  • If free-standing fans are used, position them in a way that does not direct air from one patron to another.

Gym Facilities


  • Inform members of dues and fees incurred or waived during closure.
  • Provide reminders to employees and members of the public to stay at least six feet away from others when in the facility and mark six-foot intervals when possible.
  • Post signs and reminders at entrances and in strategic places providing instruction on social distancing, hand hygiene, use of cloth face coverings or masks and cough and sneeze etiquette. Signs should be accessible for people with disabilities, easy to understand and may include signs for non-English speakers, as needed.
  • Post signage for employees and customers that outline good hygiene and safety measures being taken.

Gym Communication

Community Partnerships

Gym Employee Wellness

Employee Wellness

As employees continue to work from home, consider engaging employers in low-cost group memberships for their staff to access virtual services only. Companies may be more interested in offering such options as a benefit if their staff can no longer access onsite wellness facilities.

Additional Resources

Recommended Playbooks

The business function playbooks include takeaways that are specific to professional functions that could be present in any business, regardless of industry.

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*We note that these assessments are qualitative and based on expert-led judgment (Johns Hopkins, 2020). Currently, there are not enough detailed data available to enable quantitative risk stratification. Businesses will need to make decisions about re-initiating business activities before there are validated data to know the precise levels of risk.

Legal Disclaimer

The Greater Des Moines Partnership's DSM Forward playbook is not intended to constitute legal advice or provide specific direction. The preparation of a business continuity or preparations plan should be undertaken with the advice and direction of appropriate specialists and personnel, in consideration of the unique circumstances impacting each business. Third-party websites or material linked to or referenced in DSM Forward are for informational purposes only and do not constitute a recommendation of The Partnership of that material or its authors.

Last updated: 5/17/2021