Gyms should be considered an essential service

Gyms should remain open during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Now, more than ever, people need to take care of their bodies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say being overweight can lead to worse COVID-related outcomes.

As per the CDC website, people who are obese are at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and may be three times more likely to be hospitalized. Obesity is also linked to impaired immune function and more difficult ventilation.

Diet, socioeconomic status, and pre-existing health conditions all contribute to obesity. Still, physical exercise is universally important—especially now, when most are stuck at home living a sedentary lifestyle.

When gyms close during lockdowns, the common suggestion is for people to get their 60 minutes of activity at home. For many, this is simply impossible.

One barrier is the price of workout equipment.

Monthly fees at higher-end gyms like LA Fitness are about $50—which equates to roughly $600 per year—but grant the member access to weights, machines, treadmills, bikes, and more.

Meanwhile, BowFlex-branded adjustable dumbbells start at $499. Non-adjustable dumbbell sets can also be expensive while offering little flexibility. Beyond free weights, the larger equipment and machines available at most gyms cost thousands of dollars to purchase.

The average person can’t afford to buy a home gym. As a result, they are left with bodyweight exercises—which can be quite taxing and difficult for the wrong reasons.

Completing bodyweight exercises alone puts far greater strain on joints and muscles, while the use of machines typically allows for a more controlled and reduced range of motion. Machines often provide the perfect stable environment for inexperienced lifters, older people, and those with injuries.

Motivation is also important. For some, leaving the house to go to the gym is invaluable in their fitness routine. The gym is a great place to destress. This independent time is an essential break for many when everyone is cooped up inside their homes.  

Of course, safety matters more than anything during the pandemic. Gyms should be closed if they are genuinely dangerous places to be. But they aren’t.

Over the past year, most gyms have adopted mandatory vaccination and masks-on policies to protect their members from COVID-19. Many chains have also enforced social distancing measures by appropriately rearranging their facilities.

Going to a well-organized gym can be less dangerous than grocery shopping, and plenty of retail stores have remained open during the current lockdown. Unless all of society shuts down, gyms should remain open so people can take care of their bodies and minds.

Navigating the pandemic is about risk management—and I’m one of many who believes going to the gym is a necessary risk.

Ben is a fourth-year psychology student and The Journal’s Senior Arts Editor.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.