Area fitness centers busy despite omicron surge | Business

Beatrice J. Doty

Despite a recent surge in the omicron variant of COVID-19, area fitness centers are busy as many people made New Year’s resolutions to get in shape and get their health back on track.

Daniel Cronauer, co-owner of 10X Fitness in Fairview Twp. and Taylor, sees many gym goers who make being healthy and losing weight a priority especially since studies show obese people experience greater health issues when they contract COVID-19.

“They are being proactive,” Cronauer said. “They go to the gym to work and do everything they can to be as healthy as they can.”

Still, Cronauer said some people are still afraid to go to the gym because of COVID-19 fears.

“I’d like to tell those people we are open 24 hours and people can spread out in the gym if they are nervous,” Cronauer said.

He said business is better than last year when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered gyms to close Dec. 12 through Jan. 4. When they reopened in last January, they were initially only permitted to operate at 50% capacity.

Cronauer said he doesn’t believe that closing fitness centers was justified since many people rely on them for their physical and mental health. He said gyms were mislabeled as being “superspreaders” although studies show COVID-19 rarely spreads on surfaces.

Sanitizing and cleaning stations are set up throughout the fitness centers and staff cleans every night, Cronauer said. Gym goers can decide for themselves whether or not they want to wear masks, he said.

Some members are in their 80s and they enjoy exercising, coming out to talk to other members and being healthy after feeling drained by quarantine and isolation, he said.

“You have a better chance of surviving COVID if you are healthy,” he said. “People can control working out and being healthy. People are coming in saying, ‘Enough is enough. I need to get back to the gym’.”

Usage at Planet Fitness locations throughout Luzerne and Lackawanna counties is “on par with pre-pandemic levels” and there has been a strong number of new members, said Stephen Kindler Jr., president and CEO of Planet Fitness franchisee National Fitness Partners.

Planet Fitness, which has locations in Edwardsville, Pittston, Scranton and Peckville, opened a new location next to Kohl’s in Wilkes-Barre Twp. last year.

“As we kick off 2022, we’re heartened to see that people in and around Wilkes-Barre are committed to prioritizing their physical and mental wellbeing,” Kindler said. “We’re eager to continue providing the safe, clean and affordable access to fitness that our community needs.”

Planet Fitness is known for its low membership fees starting at just $10 a month. All Planet Fitness locations recently received the WELL Health Safety rating, which Kindler said is a first in the fitness industry and ensures that members can “exercise with peace of mind.”

At NEPA Fit Club in Blakely, owner Mike Marcinek said he has seen an uptick in people coming out in January for the new year.

With the surge in COVID-19 cases, however, Marcinek said attendance has been “all over the place.” Business still isn’t up to where it was pre-pandemic but it’s better than last year at this time, he said.

Masks are optional at NEPA Fit Club and people typically schedule appointments to work out. Marcinek said fitness centers like NEPA Fit Club give people a “chance to look at how being healthy can have a great overall effect on their safety and health.”

“I think there is a certain sense of fatigue and a certain sense of people wanting to be more proactive with their health and valuing it more after having opportunities taken away for the last two years,” Marcinek said. “I think being proactive is the right move right now.”

Keystone Fitness in Factoryville has been bustling with activity in January as many people pledged to change themselves for the better.

Jason Gay, general manager of Keystone Fitness and a certified personal trainer, said he’s glad to see more people concerned about their health but many people push themselves too hard too quickly, which pushes them away from exercising.

“Someone who is just starting out needs to find a routine they are comfortable with,” Gay said. “Working out as much as two or three days a week can provide substantial benefits for someone. Don’t look at someone who has been working out forever. Move at your own pace.”

For someone who is just starting to work out and wants to develop a routine, Gay said they need to find exercises they are comfortable doing, which can be something as simple as walking every day.

“You just need to get yourself moving,” Gay said. “Something as simple as getting out to walk every day can be one of the best things one can do for themselves. We might not think of walking as a great exercise, but it’s one of the most effective ways to get yourself moving.”

Although the weight equipment is an attraction for Keystone Fitness, Gay said the great thing about the gym is there are plenty of things for people who don’t have the goal of becoming big and muscular.

“We have lots of older people who come in to just walk on the treadmill and ride the stationary bike, which is awesome,” he said. “I think it’s a very cool thing to see when people want to take care of themselves.”

Kevin McConlogue of the Wyoming County Examiner contributed to this report.

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