Is it safe to go back to the gym in the COVID-19 era?

Like a fish without water, gym addicts all around the world have been writhing in
lockdown. Desperate for going out to the gym, their quarantine google search is filled with questions like – Is it safe to work out during COVID-19 without precautions?, Can I go to the gym during coronavirus?, Easy home exercises.

And in April, when the White House’s official reopening guidelines made gyms and fitness studios one of the first non-essential businesses to re-open as long as they “adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols”, many of the health enthusiasts went yayyy!

But some are still wondering – Are gyms really safe?

Why are gyms a COVID-19 hotspot?

Think – panting people, sweaty towels, and shared equipment, all in a confined area.  Gyms and germs go hand in hand. According to a recent study, about 20 percent of gym surfaces are breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.

Gym equipment also can be really tricky to wash and sanitize. Treadmills, dumbbells, weights, resistance bands – all are high touch surfaces and difficult to clean.

Exercising with a face mask can be pretty difficult. And even if you do, along with following the 6 feet distance guideline, there is always shared air supply which makes you more prone to catching the infection.

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Hence, opening up gyms doesn’t mean they are risk-free. They have always been germy and are more susceptible to virus transmission.

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I can’t wait to hit the gym. Are there any precautions I must take?

Remember there are several home exercises, outdoor exercises that are less infection-prone than gyms. But if you are still going out to the gym, there are a few precautions you must keep in mind to ensure COVID-19 stays away from you –  

1. Disinfect, Touch, Repeat

One of the most effective ways to stay safe from keep COVID-19 is disinfecting yourself and everything around. 

“There should be a sink with soap so you can wash your hands, or a hand-sanitizer station as soon as you walk in the door,” says Radford Slough, the owner of Urban Body Fitness, a gym in downtown Atlanta frequented by doctors and C.D.C. scientists.

Make sure the trainers or gym instructors are wearing a mask or face shield.

The gym should be well equipped with sanitizers and clean cloth to wipe the equipment clean after every use. Even if the dumbbell, machine rails, knobs etc. appear clean, disinfect it before using. Remember precaution is better than cure.

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2. Maintain distance

Choose off-hours to avoid crowds and make sure the gym has rearranged the settings to ensure social distancing is being maintained.

Choose a 30-40 minute flexible workout routine. If there are too many people near the say the squat rack or free weight area, instead of waiting, choose cardio that day.  

Look for a well-ventilated gym having open windows, doors, fans instead of a closed, cramped box-space. According to a research letter from South Korea scheduled for publication in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases identified clusters of Covid-19 after the disease had been transmitted at dance classes with five to 22 students in a room of about 645 square feet during intense exercise lasting 50 minutes. “The moist, warm atmosphere in a sports facility coupled with turbulent airflow generated by intense physical exercise can cause more dense transmission of isolated droplets,” the authors wrote.

3. Remember the basic precautions

Masks, sanitization, screenings are becoming a part of our going out during a pandemic routine. Gyms are no exception.

Make sure you are wearing a mask while working out. You can always choose a breathable fabric mask to ensure normal breathing. Avoid touching your face and nose during the workout.

Carry your own water bottle and towels to avoid lingering around the water coolers and changing rooms. 

4. Better to speak up than be at risk

Voice your concerns if you see someone at the gym not following the required protocol or the gym authorities being lenient in implementing the necessary precautions. The right gym will take this pandemic and your safety seriously.

Choosing to back to the gym during coronavirus is a personal decision and should be made after weighing all the pros and cons.

Remember, good health begins with safety.

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Sonam Gulati
Sonam Gulati
Sonam Gulati - A wife, a mom, a dog-mom, a fitness enthusiast (in no particular order) has been practicing yoga for the last 12 years. Her journey began due to chronic back pain (thanks to a long sitting job) and post-natal depression. The pain birthed an urge to find a strong body and mind (for herself, for her child) and ended up transforming her. Working through deep-rooted feelings and trauma, releasing them layer by layer, her life today is a testament to the healing power of Yoga and how it enables a mind, body, and soul union. She has been writing on various aspects of health and relationships for over 8 years, journaling through her journey.

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