California Governor Launches Fitness and Mental Well-Being Council; CFA Drops Lawsuit

Now that health clubs and studios in California are reopened, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has launched an Advisory Council on Physical Fitness and Mental Well-Being, making the announcement on June 17 at an In-Shape Health Club in Bakersfield, California.

In-Shape is a member of the California Fitness Alliance (CFA), which was created in April 2020 after the governor ordered health clubs, along with other businesses, to close to stem the spread of COVID-19. The CFA sued the governor and other state officials in September over the gym closures, but they dropped the lawsuit last week, according to the Times of San Diego.

CFA board members helped organize and participated in the June 17 event with the governor.

The 15-member advisory council, which is being led by First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Ronnie Lott, is tasked with exploring healthy strategies to ensure Californians can thrive. Council members have not yet been chosen but will include representatives from health and wellness organizations, youth sports programs, education, the entertainment and fitness industry, and others from around the state, according to the announcement.

The council will facilitate collaboration among federal, state and local agencies, education, business and industry, the private sector, and others in the promotion of physical activity and mental wellness. It will advise on the development of physical activity and wellness goals for Californians of all ages and advise on methods to increase awareness among all age groups, especially among children and youth, about how physical activity, sport, nutrition and mental wellness contribute to healthy and productive lives. In addition, the council will encourage inter-generational physical fitness activities including the use of physical activity and sport to strengthen families.

“On behalf of the California Fitness Alliance, we are thrilled to collaborate with Governor Newsom and the new fitness council to make California the healthiest state in the nation,” Francesca Schuler, co-founder of the CFA and CEO of In-Shape Health Clubs, said in a media release. “Together, we will continue our mission to provide equitable access to fitness for all Californians while educating them on the mental and physical benefits of exercise and motivating them to get moving.”

She also said that the governor was moving in the right direction.

“Now is not the time to get back to normal, but rather an opportunity to build a better normal that takes our state to the next level,” she said.

In September 2020, the CFA filed a lawsuit against the governor and the state, challenging the scope of the governor’s power to issue the indefinite shutdown of indoor fitness clubs and what the group said was an arbitrary treatment of fitness centers. The group sought to lift some of the restrictions on indoor fitness mandated in the state.

In March 2020, most gyms in California were ordered closed with a one-month reprieve for many on June 12, 2020, as COVID-19 cases decreased, but then in July, California gyms were again ordered closed as cases in the state increased. Most clubs in the state remained closed for the rest of the year and through the first half of 2021 although gyms in some parts of the state with lower case counts could operate outdoors with certain distancing restrictions. 

The CFA has contended throughout the pandemic that gyms should remain open following safety protocols to help with the physical and mental health of Californians.

In December, the state’s motion to dismiss the CFA lawsuit was denied by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, but the CFA dropped the lawsuit last week on its own after gyms in the state were allowed to reopen.

“The California Fitness Alliance is ready to do its part in partnership with the governor to help bring fitness and well-being to all Californians,” Randy Karr, president and CEO of California Family Fitness and a co-founder of CFA, said in a media release. “We are excited to welcome our members back to fitness and their best health.”

In May, the CFA launched a campaign to encourage Californians to get moving for their mental health. May was Mental Health Awareness month.

Throughout May, the CFA shared tips and articles from their member organizations and partners about practicing self-awareness to live a more mindful life, setting a five-minute mindful morning routine to improve mental health, how mood-boosting workouts can lead to greater happiness, what chronic stress is and how to know if you have it, and how strength training helps improve your sleep.