The times of coronavirus are not behind us yet. But, as the stay-at-home orders, put in place to combat the said virus, ease, many countries begin to re-open. And so do the restaurants, trade centers, retail stores, hair salons, and gyms.
And as the fitness industry cautiously starts up again, many of us are naturally wondering whether it is safe to resume gym workouts. It goes to show that no one knows the answers to all our questions. We haven’t been in this exact situation before, so, we all learn as we go.
How germy are gyms in general?
According to researchers behind the study published on PubMed, “athletic training rooms have a high prevalence of bacteria,” meaning that there’s a fair chance of being exposed to different viruses in gyms. Multiple surfaces in the athletic training facilities were swabbed for this investigation. As a result, a collection of drug-resistant bacteria, including the influenza virus, and others were found on 25% of the surfaces of those facilities.
Proving that even before this epidemic, gyms have hardly ever been the most hygienic places to be. It’s not difficult to get your head around why this happens.
When a large number of people exercise in close proximity to each other and touch the equipment, air-borne diseases spread surprisingly quickly. And that applies no matter how well-ventilated the gym is.
It took us a pandemic to memorize by heart that we are not to touch our face, eyes, mouth, nose after having touched something or someone else. Previously many of us (let’s face it) would just randomly grasp any dumbbell or kettle lying around the gym, sweat, touch our face with that hand, repeat. Passing bacteria from one surface to another as we go.
Though it hasn’t really been that long, the times, indeed, have changed. That’s why – first things first.
What safety rules should your gym follow?
According to the White House’s reopening plan for the USA, gyms can resume work only if they properly follow the social distancing and sanitation protocols. These will most likely determine the max number of people that can be in the gym at one time, and the safe distance between you and other patrons. Gym goers might even need to wear a mask.
While we all are still in the situation where the general post-lockdown rules for individuals must be observed, there are specific things you need to look for in your gym (should you decide to return).
You need to make sure the owner of your gym takes your safety seriously:
- Check that your gym takes various measures to inform its visitors about social distancing, the importance of staying home if you have sniffles, and why it’s important to sanitize the equipment and how to do it right. These reminders can be introduced on numerous posters hanging around the premises.
- The reception staff and the instructors should be wearing masks, keeping guard, and also reminding you and others about the importance of all of the above (see point 1 again).
- The space needs to be properly ventilated at all times. It’s best if your fitness studio is ventilated naturally – by letting fresh air in through open windows.
- The gym needs to apply provisions for people to keep at least a 6-foot distance from each other. In other words, let only a limited number of people in.
- See to it that the gym is stocked with spray bottles filled with disinfectant. And that anyone can use it whenever necessary.
- Find out if they frequently disinfect the premises. A regularly updated disinfection checklist should always be available.
How can you limit the risk for coronavirus exposure in the gym?
Note. Your home and the great outdoors still remain the safest places for you to exercise. If you choose to return to the gym at this time, make sure you take all the precautions for your own sake and that of others.
Disinfection is the new normal
Rule number one: regularly wash your hands and always bring your sanitizer gel along. If you choose to work out in a public place, you need to get used to disinfecting yourself, the equipment you use, and the surfaces you touch. Regardless of how wearisome it may be. Don’t think of it as a waste of time – your safety may depend on it.
Wipe down gym equipment before and after using it. When we sweat, we’re constantly soaking the handles of the said equipment in our germs. Even if the person who used it right before you looked healthy, they might not be, so thoroughly clean it with a sanitizer.
Don’t forget to leave the disinfectant on the equipment for a minute or so after spraying. This way you are more likely to kill the bacteria or the virus, so don’t wipe the spray straight away.
When less is more
If possible, try to choose an off-hour for your gym workouts, when there are not too many people present. This time is different for every gym, so you may have to do some research.
The point is, your gym should not be crowded. And out comes the next rule.
Keep the distance
As already said before, there should be enough space to keep people at least 6 feet apart from each other. Especially those doing intensive cardio or weight training.
Your gym owner might even think of a way to mark out each individual workout space, with the help of colored tape on the floor or a partition.
You should be prepared to wear a mask
Have it on you, that is. Your fitness studio may have a ‘mask on’ policy, which is mandatory. So, be ready that you will have to work out in a mask to protect yourself and the people around you.
Open-air spaces and your home are still the safest places for you to exercise. Of course, it all comes down to your personal decisions and choices. But if you do decide to resume your out-of-home fitness routine, be extra vigilant, take all the precautionary measures, and don’t forget to check if your gym follows them, too.
Prevention is indeed better than cure, and this way you will be protecting not only yourself but the people around you.