On Sunday, the Federal Government announced further restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus.
From midday today, locations that see lots of people congregate including bars, restaurants and gyms, were ordered to close to further tighten social distancing measures in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while he regrets introducing the extra precautions, he was left with little choice as a result of Australian citizens not heeding warnings.
For this reason, all gyms have been forced to put in place measures to close their premises, leaving their members without the ability to maintain their health and fitness through exercise.
But given the unprecedented situation, most gyms do not stipulate specifically what would happen in the event of a mandatory closure at the direction of the government in response to COVID-19, leaving many questioning whether or not gyms can still charge their members a membership fee given the current circumstances.
Will I still have to pay for my gym membership?
Speaking to 10 days over the phone, CEO of Fitness Australia Barrie Elvish clarified whether or not gyms would continue to charge their members during this time.
"Each gym will probably have their own terms and conditions in their own contracts," he said.
"My understanding, speaking anecdotally to a couple of the gyms, is they are offering suspensions or temporary payment holidays to keep people engaged."
Elvish noted however, that the action taken in response to waiving membership fees during this period would be up to each individual gym.
"But as I say that, each individual gym is going to want engagement and contact with their members because they're going to want them to come back when this is all over," he explained.
Elvish said if you cannot find out whether or not your gym is offering suspensions by checking their website or social media channels, the best thing to do is contact them directly and ask.
"You should contact the individual gym that you're a member of," he said.
"If you're not happy with the information you're getting, you should contact Fitness Australia."
Do I have to ask my gym to freeze my membership?
Some gyms have made the decision to pause automatic direct debit payments from their customers' accounts as of today without them having to request to do so.
This is the case with Snap Fitness Australia, for example, who wrote on their website: "It’s with our heaviest heart that we notify you that our gym has temporarily been closed due to government mandates. You will NOT be billed for your membership at Snap Fitness for the duration we are closed."
"We want to do the right thing for our members during this challenging time by pausing billing while our club is closed. If you are a pre-paid member rest assured your expiry date will be extended equivalent to the duration of the closure."
Fitness First Australia has also made the same decision, stating on their website: "Our members are at the center of everything we do at Fitness First and with that in mind, memberships will be put on time freeze until we are able to welcome you back into your local club. We will contact you via email with the details."
What about personal trainers and small studios?
However Elvish has called on the government to provide further clarity to the fitness industry around the gym closures, stating it has created confusion based on the variety of facilities and services available.
“We are urgently calling on the government to provide further clarification around what the gym closures mean for fitness services such as personal training and small studios, many of which are operated by sole traders,” Elvish said.
Our members have closed their facilities from midday today. However, it is still unclear if services offered within the fitness industry can continue to operate for example can a PT continue to train a client indoors in a 1:1 environment provided all social-distancing measures are in place? Or can these services only be offered outdoors?
“What is also still unclear is the timeframe for which gyms will be closed.”
Elvish reiterated the importance of staying active, despite being in self-isolation, as it's important in order to maintain health as well as mental wellbeing.
“Keeping active during a time of isolation and uncertainty is extremely important for our mental health and as an industry it is our mission to ensure people can continue to exercise safely," he said.
While many individuals are now looking for home exercise options until they are able to return to the gym, Elvish said Fitness Australia is still pushing for gyms to be classified under the essential services category.
“Fitness Australia wants to work with the government to put the right measures in place to allow gym operators to provide vital exercise opportunities for the community to maintain and manage their physical and mental health,” he said.
Panic buyers start clearing home gym equipment from shelves
Lack of gym access clearly has some worried, with panic buyers turning their sights away from pasta and hand sanitizer and instead, focusing on at-home exercise equipment.
Kmart in Sydney's Marrickville Metro had sold out of all of its dumbbells, with only a few resistance bands left on Sunday afternoon.
Shoppers have begun posting photos of bare shelves of their local Kmart stores, known for selling exercise equipment at affordable prices.
Target, Big W and Rebels Sports are in the same situation, with shoppers looking to purchase items including weights, exercise bikes and treadmills so they are able to continue their fitness regimes while in self-isolation at home.