Frontline physicians simulate common workout situations for safe return to the gym

(Dr. Christopher Hicks and Dr. Andrew Petrosoniak, Emergency Physicians at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, monitor a potential gym scenario of weight lifting with a client at GoodLife Fitness. Photo: GoodLife Fitness)

Two emergency physicians have partnered with GoodLife Fitness and are working to guide health and safety protocols at the fitness clubs. Emergency Physicians and Healthcare Design Experts Christopher Hicks, MD, MEd, FRCPC and Andrew Petrosoniak, MD, MEd, FRCPC of Advanced Performance Healthcare Design (APHD) have conducted thorough research into the fitness industry and GoodLife’s spaces, processes, and policies.

Hicks and Petrosoniak played an integral role in guiding, supporting, and testing the COVID-19 response process and protocols at St. Michael’s Hospital, a leading academic health sciences centre in Toronto, and have been on the frontline caring for COVID-19 patients throughout the pandemic. “We’ve been working in the hospital setting to design the safest possible conditions. It was a unique challenge to be able to apply what we’ve learned to a new environment, but the same principles apply. We recognize it’s important for Canadians to have access to gyms for their physical and mental health, so this project is really important to us,” said Dr. Christopher Hicks.

They partnered with GoodLife to use simulation, combined with clinical and behavioural psychology expertise, to create customized solutions for the unique needs of fitness clubs. They ran table-top and live simulations, similar to role-playing, by acting out certain potential scenarios focusing on efficiency and risk mitigation with workflows being refined to address confusion points and blind spots that may encumber safety and eliminate friction associated with compliance.

This pandemic has taught us that we’re linked far more than we ever thought we were,” says Dr. Andrew Petrosoniak. “To imagine that we can engage in activities within our towns, cities, and around the country without any impact on others is simply not true. In fact, when we come to the gym, it’s a social contract with those around us that we’re going to behave in a responsible way and that those who are sharing the space will do so as well.”

To test that social contract, the process culminated with a live, in-club simulation. The space was prepared so that it was set up in the new operating model and in accordance with The GoodLife Standard. Hicks and Petrosoniak had associates and members participate in many different scenarios to simulate what an actual experience would be like, including arriving at a club, checking in, working out, and leaving. During this time, the team was able to identify confusion points and blind spots that may encumber safety. They were then able to address and solve those issues, as well as eliminate friction associated with compliance before clubs opened.

“What we’ve seen here with GoodLife is that they’ve created a space that follows the recommendations and, in fact, goes above and beyond the recommendations that have been put in place,” says Dr. Christopher Hicks. “I’m a big believer in the work that GoodLife has done and the process they’ve engaged in. Adding the two of us into the pictures as frontline healthcare providers and medical designers I think really shows an added level of commitment on behalf of the organization to really understand the nature of the problem and to make the process of reopening fitness Clubs as responsible as I think it could possibly be.”

Our goal has been to meet or exceed the new health and safety parameters laid out by the different levels of government across the country. That’s why we developed The GoodLife Standard,” says Jason Sheridan, Senior Vice President of Operations for GoodLife Fitness. “GoodLife recognized that we are living in unprecedented circumstances and that, while we have an incredible wealth of knowledge on our own teams, we knew we needed to consult external experts in this specific field to make sure our reopening plan was as responsible and effective as possible.”

The Club’s website says, “The new health and safety standards will be updated regularly. It is important to recognize that public health information and provincial orders can change quickly. GoodLife will be doing everything to update their Standards and website as quickly as possible in response to these changes.” If you are enrolled for personal training, it is now available for clients virtually. At the Stittsville location, Public Health authorities in the region have indicated that Masks ARE Mandatory for Members in all public areas, EXCEPT while Exercising.

A simulation video can be viewed on the GoodLife Fitness YouTube channel. Note that everyone is wearing a mask when exercising.


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