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March 14, 2016 11:49 AM EDT

Iconic fitness instructor Richard Simmons is not in any danger, according to his rep.

Recent rumors and reports that Simmons is being held inside his home against his will are false, the star’s rep Tom Estey tells PEOPLE.

“As I have stated in the past, these claims are untrue and preposterous,” Estey says. “Richard, after 40 years of being in the spotlight, is now simply taking a break from the public eye and working behind the scenes to continue to help those millions of people worldwide in need of his assistance and on several projects to be announced soon.”

Simmons, 67, has indeed retreated increasingly further from the spotlight in recent years, causing the New York Daily News to investigate claims that he is purposely being kept from his close friends and family.

Mauro Oliveira, Simmons’ former assistant, told the NYDN in an article published on Saturday that during his last visit to Simmons’ mansion, the trainer told him they could no longer see each other. Oliveira also claimed that Simmons told him his longtime live-in housekeeper, Teresa Reveles, is now controlling his life.

Several other friends reportedly told the NYDN they hadn’t heard from Simmons since 2013 and were “very concerned.”

Similar rumors ignited in late 2014 after the fitness guru was not seen in public for almost the entire year.

Simmons himself shut down those reports, attributing his absence to a knee injury.

“I am so touched by the outpouring of love and concern I have received today,” he wrote on his Facebook page at the time. “I have had a tough time dealing with this injury, as it is keeping me from doing what I truly love to do and that is to teach classes around the world.”

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