WINDSOR, ONT. -- Local gym owners are feeling overlooked in Ontario’s re-opening plan as gyms were the first to close and will be one of the last to open amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Fitness is essential. It may not be essential to some people but we all know that mind and body act in unison,” says David Schild, owner of Xanadu Health Club in Lakeshore, Ont.

The owners of Xanadu Health Club have pitched in more than $200,000 help keep the business afloat over the last four months. They question why liquor stores were never forced to close during the pandemic.

“Alcohol is a depressant and also reduces your immune system.” Schild asks, “Is this what we should be doing, reducing our immune systems during a pandemic by pushing alcohol over health and fitness?"

The club believes a trip to the gym is safer than many think. “We’ve equipped all of our equipment with spray bottles. The air in our facility is completely replaced every four minutes,” says Chris Hoffman, Xanadu Health Club general manager.

Gyms are currently under stage three of the province’s re-opening plan. However, the Ontario Independent Fitness Studio Association (OIFSA), which represents several F45 gyms in Windsor-Essex say small, independent fitness studios should not have been grouped in with big-box gyms.

“We offer a more controlled environment. They are small classes where the instructor watches everyone,” says Alex Kucharski, OISFA director.

The F45 fitness studio in Tecumseh is overhauling their traditional training methods in order to meet health and safety guidelines once they are given the green to re-open.

“Every single person will have their own work space. They’ll have their own equipment, we’re not sharing equipment,” says Samantha Piercell, F45 Tecumseh owner.

With no chance of re-opening in stage two, gyms are now asking the government to enter stage three as soon as possible and to consider more flexible restrictions. “I’ve put everything into this place and the in-studio experience. The longer we stayed closed, the harder it’s going to re-open. We’re really ready,” Piercell says.