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Gyms, fitness studios will reopen with new capacity limits and mask guidelines

Gov. Walz says regular exercise is critical to the mental and emotional well-being of families across the state.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Governor Tim Walz's modifications to the current statewide shutdown impacts gyms along with rec centers, indoor climbing facilities, dance and martial arts studios.  

A small, local gym owner is embracing the change, saying it's better than nothing. 

Angie Thompson is the owner of Vault Fitness in Eden Prairie - it's been shut down now for nearly 4 weeks. A month ago, she told KARE 11 her business was just starting to bounce back from the springtime closure. 

"It's not ideal for sure, but at this point we'll kind of take what we can get, you know," said Thompson.

The governor confirmed, beginning Saturday, Dec. 19, gyms can open at 25% capacity or have up to 100 people inside at a time. People also have to now wear masks at all times and keep 12 feet of distance between everyone.

"It's not lost on me we're fighting a health care pandemic," said Gov. Walz. "Why would we not want people to be as healthy as they could?" He added that gyms have "figured out smart ways and thought about things, so we hear you on that."

The Minnesota Department of Health has always maintained gyms are just naturally risky environments and precautions will lower the risk, not eliminate it. While larger gyms have long argued the spaces are not the source of community spread. 

RELATED: Gov. Walz's new guidance to allow outdoor dining, allow elementary schools to opt for in-person learning

Planet Fitness operator and COO Alex Mortensen writing a statement that reads:

Although the added mandates will present some challenges, we feel confident that we will be able to operate within the guidelines and provide a safe environment for our members. Our 22 locations in MN average over 20,000 square feet providing plenty of room for "social fitnessing". We strongly believe the MN fitness industry is essential as part of preventative and mental health care. This reopening of fitness centers in MN is further acknowledgement that Planet Fitness and the greater MN fitness industry is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Mortensen also says Planet Fitness is working with Gov. Walz to guide the decision-making process and they hope to see more roll backs by the first of the year.

Life Time Inc. released a statement:

We appreciate this step forward in recognition of the vital role health and fitness facilities play in helping thousands of Minnesotans maintain their physical and mental health, which is especially important at this time. Good health helps to reduce COVID risks and so having safe spaces to exercise as winter approaches is an essential part of the solution to this crisis.

Thompson says her gym is ready to re-open and she and her staff are sanitizing the space three times a day and most clients make appointments, as well as clean the equipment after they're done using it. 

"As much as we want to get very excited about it, I'm definitely still a little bit guarded because you just don't know," said Thompson.

Gov. Walz also said group fitness classes can start on January 4th, and he will provide more guidance about that at a later date. 

RELATED: Live updates: COVID restrictions to be loosened as cases fall, deaths spike

KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

The state of Minnesota has set up a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.