By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
Many people are ready to get back to exercising.
Going to the gym and taking a fitness class are enjoyable activities for those looking to stay healthy, lose fat, or build muscle. Gyms and fitness centers are also great places to spend time with your friends, or make new ones!
Unfortunately, gyms and fitness centers have been some of the most affected establishments by the COVID-19 virus and the “new normal” of lockdowns and social distancing.
Gyms and fitness centers are completely shut down in some states. Others place strict restrictions on the number of guests.
Some wonder if gyms and fitness centers will ever open “normally” once again. Most fitness enthusiasts are wondering how they can adapt their workouts in a time where social distancing and sanitation at the gym are a fact of life.
If your gym or fitness center has reopened, deciding on whether to attend comes down to your personal preferences.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who are immunosuppressed, have underlying health conditions or are over sixty-five years old have a greater risk of catching COVID.
If you fall into one of these categories, going to the gym might be a risky endeavor, according to Dr. Saadia Griffith-Howard, an infectious disease specialist with Kaiser Permanente.
Health officials express concerns with gyms and fitness centers because of evidence suggesting that COVID-19 spreads particularly quickly in closed spaces through the air.
After tracing confirmed COVID cases back to dance workout classes, South Korean researchers said confined spaces like fitness studios can be an environment where COVID spreads quickly. The reason? A combination of warm air and turbulent airflow due to people exercising.
For those concerned about going to the gym, one effective solution is to exercise outside. Coronavirus particles can disperse faster outside, lowering the chances of getting infected.
The status of gyms and fitness centers varies largely by state. White House reopening guidelines mandate gyms to stick with “strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols” once open.
These safety guidelines mean most gyms, if open, are limiting capacity, enforcing social distancing guidelines, and conducting thorough sanitization of fitness equipment.
Curious about how to keep yourself healthy at the gym or fitness center while still getting a workout in? Here are a few safety tips.
1. Wipe Down Equipment: Most gyms and fitness centers that are open will offer disinfecting wipes or sprays for members to use. Some might even have staffers dedicated to doing so. Be on the lookout for wipes that contain more than sixty percent alcohol or chlorine bleach to ensure effectiveness against germs. Wipes designed for personal hygiene will not have enough disinfectant power.
2. Time Your Visits: If you’re itching to head for a workout but remain concerned about sharing an enclosed space with many other people, consider visiting your gym or fitness center at an off-peak time. Some gyms offer twenty-four-hour key fob entry, allowing guests to literally come in any time to exercise. A 2018 study across three Brazilian gyms found the risk of catching a contagious respiratory illness might be lower when there are less people at the gym.
3. Keep Your Hands Away From Your Face: You’ve probably heard about the importance of keeping your hands away from your face to reduce your risk of contracting COVID. This becomes vitally important in fitness centers where there’s a wide variety of people touching equipment throughout the day. Make sure to use hand sanitizer or wash your hands for at least twenty seconds as needed, but certainly before leaving the gym.
Many gyms and fitness centers are working to foster social distancing. This includes removing or blocking off equipment to create space between people, putting up signage to cordon off areas, or placing floor markings to indicate where people should stand.
The same trends are occurring in fitness classes. Some gyms are marking spots on the floor to ensure participants are more than six feet apart. Others are asking attendees to limit interactions with each other—like giving high-fives or hugs—during class to mitigate the spread of germs.
The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) suggests gyms should trade signing in guests at the front desk for use of a keycard or mobile app. This limits interaction between members and staff.
When it comes to employees, the IHRSA prompts gyms to see if employees can work remotely if possible, or at least get rid of shared workspaces if staff needs to be physically present. Virtual fitness classes are a smart way to keep gym employees working while still providing opportunities for members to participate in exercise from their homes.
Working out from home can be tough. If you don’t have gym equipment, push-ups, situps, jogging, or sprinting are good ways to keep your body agile and in shape.
There’s also a variety of home workout apps and instructional programs that might be good options for those interested in a scripted exercise routine.
The Peloton fitness app is offering a thirty-day free trial, as of late July. The application has videos covering yoga, cardio, and stretching. You don’t need to purchase Peloton’s bike or treadmill to use the app.
A great free exercise application to use is Nike Training Club. The platform has a number of home workout options and can be set to create an ongoing workout schedule.
Many personal trainers also stream workout classes on Instagram to stay connected with clients and try to attract new ones.
YouTube is a popular home for fitness experts who produce free exercise videos for those at home to follow along.
Gyms and fitness centers have been forced to make significant adjustments due to COVID-19.
Fortunately, most are trying their best to make as safe as an environment as possible for guests to exercise. Whether you’re ready to head back to the gym, or are more comfortable working out from home, there are many options to ensure you’re getting the exercise your body needs.