If quarantine restrictions have begun to ease up in your city, you might be wondering if it’s safe to visit public places that are now open. One of the most questionable places to visit have been fitness centers since it can be harder to keep those sanitary. Still, some gyms are opening across the United States. How can we go to these and protect our health?
Most gyms should be following new procedures in order to keep their doors open while obeying social distancing orders and other state mandates. Still, some are stricter than others. It’s important to call your gym beforehand and see what their policies are before you attempt to just show up. If you don’t feel they are following enough precautions, shop around with other gyms and see what they’re doing. No matter what, you should always prioritize your health and safety. Staying fit should always be about bettering your physical health, not jeopardizing it.
- Health and Safety
- Deep Cleaning
- Six Feet Apart
- Online Workout Programs
- Furniture Removal
- Temperature Check and Air Ventilation
Health and Safety
Regardless of where you are, there are always common good hygiene precautions you should follow to maintain the health and safety of yourself and others. According to the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) you should always:
- Regularly wash your hands.
- Cover all coughs and sneezes with your elbow.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Stay away from people who are sick or stay home if you are.
- Sanitize frequently touched items.
- Wear a face mask.
Fitness centers are required to follow severe cleaning and social distancing guidelines. This is another reason why you should call your gym in advance before showing up. Many gyms may require that you reserve a time slot in advance because they schedule cleaning between slots. This will help prevent the spread of disease. They might not allow you access to the locker rooms or bathrooms either, because these areas are harder to disinfect. If that’s the case, come dressed ready to workout, and travel with only the items you need.
Other items that can’t be cleaned may also be removed from your gym. For example, foam rollers, mats, towels, and stretching bands are very porous and aren’t easy to clean. If your gym has removed these, prepare beforehand and bring your own.
Fitness centers should also use more extensive cleaning measures. Sterilization is so important in areas where lots of people pass through, especially when dealing with a pandemic. That’s why several public places have turned to fogging and ultraviolet light to fight COVID 19.
Thermal fogging vaporizes cleaning solutions so that it can disinfect hard-to-reach areas. This allows the solution to clean the air and surfaces in the gym. Several studies have shown that thermal fogging cleanses surfaces better than surface sanitizing alone. However, it works best when used in conjunction with surface cleaning. Thermal fogging is a very technical process and must be conducted by a professional sanitization company.
Another form of cleaning that should be used in addition to surface disinfectants is ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light kills airborne pathogens. This means that it prevents coronavirus from being transmitted through the air. Ultraviolet light can be dangerous, however, which makes it hard to use in public spaces. Usually, gyms will use it after everyone leaves and every piece of equipment has been wiped down.
Six Feet Apart
Your fitness center will probably also ask you to reserve access to comply with social distancing. Remember to always be respectful of those around you and be aware of how close you’re getting to other people at all times. Some gyms may help increase your awareness by placing signs over every other machine or moving them off of the floor. They may also close locker rooms for this reason.
Another place to stay extremely aware of social distancing is in group fitness classes. Although they’re one of the main highlights for many people’s gym experiences, they’re also perhaps the most dangerous during the pandemic.
Someone who is exercising and breathing heavily is probably expelling more respiratory germs and expelling them farther. South Korean researchers believe that group fitness classes could greatly increase health risk. From their studies, they found 112 COVID-19 subjects had attended group classes at twelve different gyms.
If you want to do group fitness classes, outdoor classes are probably safer. If you must take an indoor class, try to stay more than six feet away from the people around you and go to spaces that have good air circulation.
Online Workout Programs
If you are still wary of returning to your fitness center or group fitness classes, virtual training platforms may be the way to go. For example, if you’re older or have a chronic disease, you might want to check out what online workouts your gym offers. That way you can stay up to speed with your latest trainers while maintaining your safety.
If your gym doesn’t offer any online programs, there are several other home fitness subscriptions you can take advantage of. ClassPass, for example, is a monthly subscription service that provides you with access to gyms and classes all across the world. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, ClassPass started a new feature that allows you to live-stream several of the same classes you’d normally take in person.
During the pandemic, it’s especially important for us to stay active. The better your fitness level, the better your immune system response. However, it’s also important that your self-care routine never get in the way of your health. If your gym makes you feel uncomfortable or puts your health at risk, stay at home and do fitness classes there.
Another way gyms are reducing health risks is by removing furniture to discourage socialization. Reception areas in Los Angeles county, for example, are required to remove chairs to ensure patrons stay six feet apart at all times. Some gyms may instill even stricter rules and make you wait outside in your car instead of waiting in the lobby. Still others may remove furniture, rearrange equipment, and install plexiglass barriers between equipment for maximum protection.
The free weight area of the gym doesn’t have much equipment that can be removed to achieve six-foot distance. Therefore you should be extra cautious in areas where movement is less constrained.
Temperature Check and Air Ventilation
One of the last precautions gyms are taking to ensure the safety of their customers and employees, is to screen each person when they enter. For example, gyms in Tennessee and California require that everyone’s temperature be checked and that they answer a short health questionnaire. If their temperature is over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, they can’t enter the gym. In California, everyone is then required to use a hand sanitizer and a face covering.
Air ventilation is a little harder to monitor than temperature checks. It’s also the main reason many people are so wary of returning to gyms. If COVID-19 is airborne like many health specialists believe, the chances of getting it in a poorly ventilated space would be much higher.
Air-conditioning affects air ventilation and also must be considered a possible threat. According to a study published in April some people were infected with the coronavirus after sitting under an air-conditioning vent while eating. Apparently they were exposed to a woman who was infected when her airborne droplets were blown across the room.
Of course, it’s not very practical for a gym to be open without air conditioning. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) stated that a lack of air conditioning may actually cause heat-related distress that lowers your immune system. To be safest, specialists recommend that gyms be ventilated with outside air instead of recirculating indoor air. Otherwise, if you can, stay near an open window. Other specialists, like those in New York City’s Department of Health, say that the risk of airborne contamination through air conditioning is low. However, if you can’t control the airflow in the public places you go, you might want to stay home when possible.
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