Omicron could dent gym memberships just as industry was getting back into shape

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New Years resolutions are in full swing, but it remains to be seen whether consumers are willing to sign up for gym memberships amidst the Omicron spread.

Consumers’ fears of getting infected and potential mask mandates could squeeze major chains like Planet Fitness, Equinox, Soul Cycle, Life Time and 24 Hour Fitness, according to a report.

The industry took a huge hit during the pandemic when some 9,100 gyms — or nearly a quarter of the industry — closed for good and gym usage declined by 50 percent, according to an Axios report.

Several large brands filed for bankruptcy since the pandemic began, including Gold’s Gym, 24 Hour Fitness, and Town Sports International (which includes New York Sports Clubs), while Flywheel liquidated and closed all of its studios.

Consumers turned to at-home workouts and equipment over the past couple of years and could easily revert to those options if government regulations impose mask mandates as California already has through Jan. 15.

A sign in a gym telling people to disinfect equipment.
Consumers avoided gyms at the height of the pandemic.
San Francisco Chronicle via Gett
An empty gym.
Just over 9,000 gyms closed for good during the pandemic.
Getty Images

The new rule, however, allows for an exception at gyms “if a mask cannot be worn due to heavy exertion.”

But consumers were only recently getting back into shape at gyms, according to data from from Placer.ai, showing that visits to gyms had nudged back up into positive territory in November and December when members increased their visits by 1 percent in each month over the same period in 2019.

Several people working out a gym with one person wearing a mask.
Some people avoided going to the gym because of mask mandates.
San Francisco Chronicle via Gett

At the time Planet Fitness chief executive Christopher Rondeau said: “The business is performing extremely well,” and that he expected the “New Year to be pretty spectacular.”

That was on Nov. 4, about a month before Omicron arrived in the US.

Planet Fitness did not immediately respond for comment.

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