What is a high-intensity workout? Alta. clarifies new COVID-19 rules for fitness centres

EDMONTON — “No high-intensity workouts? … I don’t know what that means,” was Nick Troung’s reaction to hearing Alberta was relaxing rules in fitness centres on Monday.

In an announcement that afternoon, the province’s top government and medical officials announced low-intensity exercise was again allowed in public facilities.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro used pilates, tai chi and indoor climbing as examples of activities now given the green light.

“I know many Albertans are eager to get back to activities like running on the treadmill… High intensity activities like that are still only allowed on a one-on-one basis with a trainer or for a household and one trainer.”

But questions remained even the next day.

“You can’t run but you can walk. Or can you jog? Can you power walk?” CTV News Edmonton’s Bill Fortier asked Shandro during a Tuesday news conference.  

“Who makes the calls? And what happens if a gym employee and a member disagree on that?”

‘IF YOU’RE OUT OF BREATH, IT’S HIGH INTENSITY’

“Here’s how I interpret it, if you’re out of breath, it’s high intensity. If you’re not out of breath, it’s low intensity,” Shandro responded.

The new rules, he and Premier Jason Kenney acknowledged on Tuesday, place more onus on gym owners and staff.

They were modelled after British Columbia’s rules, which allow indoor low-intensity fitness, defined as exercise that “does not cause a sustained and accelerated rate of breathing.” The allowance has been in place since mid-December and has seemed to pose no additional risk, Shandro noted.

“They (gyms) were looking for more to be done, more to be allowed in their facilities, and that’s exactly what we did,” Shandro explained.

Kenney added, “It is going to impose some responsibility on gym owners to carefully monitor their businesses and make sure that businesses are staying COVID safe, but that’s what they asked for – was this responsibility and these parameters.”

BIG BOX VS. BOUTIQUE

The founder of a Calgary fitness boutique – which promises a hard-hitting workout – equated the Step 2 reopening changes to picking favourites.

“The government chose which businesses can survive and which ones can’t,” CrushCamp’s Emily Slaneff told CTV News.

She doubles as the province’s chair on the Fitness Industry Council of Canada, and as such, is part of the committee that has met with Alberta’s emergency operations COVID-19 taskforce.

Slaneff said she and her colleagues pitched allowing high-intensity exercise with three-metre distancing, but after Monday’s announcement, feels unheard.

According to Kenney, the distinction between low and high intensity was made for a reason.

“We all know that through the science the way that this virus is transmitted is through droplets that can be projected if people are respiring heavily, if they are exerting themselves physically. So that kind of activity would be high risk. That’s why that’s not permitted anywhere in Canada,” he said Tuesday.

Slaneff commented, “Premier Kenney has gone on record saying the biggest mistake he made in the first lockdown was keeping Walmart open while he shut down the small boutiques. He’s done exactly that again.

“He’s let the big box gyms open – you know, maybe with fewer options, but there’s still resuming membership payments – and in the meantime smaller boutiques are left with nothing, and most of these are small businesses that may very well not survive another month.”

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