Sportoase allows 48 people to exercise to use a new ventilation system … (Hoogstraten)


Fitness centers won’t open until June 9, but at Sportoase Stede Akkers in Hoogstraten, 48 people were allowed to use movement equipment on Tuesday morning. It was a national test event to prove that indoor sports can be played safely. Sportoase ensures 100% fresh outdoor air enters the fitness room every seven minutes.

Ronnie van den Ackerviken

Fitness centers have been closed since October. For the test on Tuesday, Sportoase didn’t take it overnight. “In collaboration with Engie, we have developed our own ventilation system called AIR. This works across all of our branches,” says Michael Schwartz, General Manager of Sportoase. “It allows our members to exercise in the fresh air that is close to the outdoor environment. Every seven minutes we refresh the air in our fitness rooms with 100% fresh air.”

Furthermore, Sportoase has replaced the F7 filters in the ductwork with the more efficient F9 type. These types of filters manage to retain 99.8% of particles. There is a continuous measurement of air, water and carbon dioxide among other things. The results are supervised by both the building management system and a staff member in the fitness room. “We want to use the test event to see the impact of the athletes on the ventilation system and air quality. The results may also apply to other sectors,” explains Schwartz.

the responsibility

The number of test subjects in the fitness room has been carefully determined. “We started with a group of eighteen,” Michael Schwartz explains. “After a certain time, another eighteen were added. According to the old protocol, a maximum of 38 people are allowed on the rooftop of the gymnasium at Hoogstraten.”

© Mia Uydens

“At the end of the day, at the request of the relevant authorities, we had a total of 48 people exercising in Hoogstraten. In this way, the effect on the air quality could also be checked. The exercisers could monitor the air quality on the screens in the fitness room. The color Green means everything is safe.”

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In orange, no additional people are allowed in until the screen is green again. Red means the air quality is insufficient. Everyone must then leave the room until the air gets better again. The highest value for healthy indoor air is a CO2 concentration of 900 ppm. With us, the screen is already going red at 850ppm. We consider it our responsibility to allow people to exercise safely. This way people can come to the gym with confidence from June 9.”

get used to

One of the people who took part in the test event was Jac Verhoeven from Hoogstraten. “I usually come to the gym every day. Since my wife and I are regular clients, we were asked to take part in the test event. We didn’t have to think long about it, because it was a long time ago. It takes a while to get used to after such a long period without fitness. Fortunately, we will soon be able to come and do our exercises every day. It will be necessary, because I have gained eight kilograms since the fitness centers closed.”

Rob Brosens has also signed up as a test subject. “I’m actually an outdoor athlete, but I was curious about how Sportoase would handle that.”


The 48 athletes and journalists had to take a rapid Covid-19 test before being allowed into the fitness room.

UZ Antwerpen personnel undergo a rapid test.

UZ Antwerpen personnel undergo a rapid test. © Mia Uydens

These tests were conducted by UZ Antwerp. “For us, this is also a test project with a view to future events,” says coordinator Michael Vanmichelen. “Anyone getting tested will be required to fill out a ten-day digital diary for any symptoms that appear. It is an accessible system and we are curious about the response. Hopefully at least 50%. Later this week we will do the same for tests at the fitness center in Edegem and in the climbing room at the Puurs”.

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Amber Webster

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