New Jersey is one of seven states where health clubs have been barred from reopening. The governor says it’s too soon, but some gym owners are rebelling.

Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, N.J., has repeatedly tried to reopen, in violation of the governor’s coronavirus shutdown order.Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

In an act of defiance, Joe Logue, a retired Marine, affixed a military gas mask and headphones before beginning his chest-and-arm workout at a New Jersey gym that had gone rogue.

It is illegal for health clubs to be open for anything other than private training sessions in New Jersey, one of only seven states where gyms have been deemed to be so high risk for spreading the coronavirus that they remain either fully or partially closed.

But the owners of Mr. Logue’s gym, Atilis, about 10 miles southeast of Philadelphia in Bellmawr, have repeatedly flouted the governor’s executive order, filing a lawsuit that sought to overturn the shutdown while staging numerous reopening events that are equal parts civil disobedience rallies and publicity stunts.

Mr. Logue was one of the first people to enter the cavernous gym on a recent Saturday morning after owners kicked down plywood that had covered the space where the doors — removed so they could not be padlocked — once stood.

“This is my release,” said Mr. Logue, 28, who said weight lifting had helped him chase away demons that had dogged him since he was injured in 2012 while on duty in Afghanistan. “I was basically drinking every night, fighting. I was getting in a lot of trouble.”

Atilis’s persistent pressure underscores the growing tension between Gov. Philip D. Murphy and another group of business owners in dire straits because of the outbreak: gym owners struggling for survival after nearly five months of a mandated pandemic lockdown.

Joe Logue works out at Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, N.J., this month.Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

Licensed health clubs are among the last types of businesses that will be allowed to reopen, and the governor has shown few signs of relenting. Similar pressure is mounting in New York, where last week Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has been sued by a group of health club owners, called gyms “highly problematic” and said they would remain closed for now.

Doctors and scientists seem to be in broad agreement that significant risks are posed by performing intense exercises indoors, which could produce high concentrations of the virus, and by equipment that is touched frequently. Two clubs in New Mexico have been linked to a small number of virus cases.

“It’s mostly about ventilation, air movement,” said Dr. Joshua L. Santarpia, a professor at the University of Nebraska’s Medical Center who studies bioaerosols and has conducted research on the coronavirus. “The smaller particles are going to move with the air flow.”