Is it safe to work out in gyms during this pandemic? Read the article to know about ways to prevent the possible transmission of COVID-19 in fitness studios.
COVID-19, or the Coronavirus disease 2019, a respiratory illness, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. This virus mainly spreads from one person to another through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, talks, or sneezes. You can also get infected by touching a surface or any object with the Coronavirus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. It is also possible to get infected from people who do not exhibit any symptoms.
With gyms and fitness centers closed for so long to prevent the spread of new Coronavirus, people were getting impatient and wanted to get back to their usual exercise routines. But, now, when they are functional again, most of them are afraid to go to the gym and risk getting infected.
Some gyms and fitness centers are open and welcoming customers once again. But doctors still advise exercising outdoors in the open, avoiding closed and confined places, wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance, and washing your hands whenever possible. With sweaty people working out so close to each other in a confined space and everybody touching different equipment, it does create a perfect environment for droplets to spread more rapidly.
The main concern about going to gyms is how readily SARS-CoV-2 can spread through respiratory droplets. The South Korean government warned people against doing strenuous exercises in fitness centers. This was because of a study that traced 112 COVID-19 patients to dance or workout classes. The study also claimed that warm and moist air and unstable airflow from exercising create an environment where droplets can spread readily.
A recent research stated that respiratory droplets remain airborne for almost 3 hours. This makes people working out in crowded or confined spaces such as fitness studios at risk of getting infected easily. But, the spread also depends on the size of the studio and the duration of the workout.
Research also suggests that people are infectious a couple of days before they develop symptoms. Such people doing vigorous exercises make them breathe harder and deeper, expelling more droplets and infecting others.
Close physical proximity while exercising.
Purposeful or accidental sustained physical contact.
Increased production of respiratory droplets due to panting, shouting, sneezing, or coughing.
Intense exercise can produce respiratory droplets that travel more than 6 feet, which is the recommended physical distancing.
Wearing face coverings or masks is not advisable during many activities, as it may inhibit respiration. This increases the risk of transmission.
General Preventive Measures:
The following measures need to be followed by members, visitors, and staff at all times -
All the gym and fitness staff must be fully vaccinated with booster doses if eligible.
Maintain a minimum distance of six feet.
Use of masks within the gym, expect while exercising. While working out, you can use a face shield or a visor.
Frequently wash your hands with soap for a minimum of 40 seconds to 60 seconds, even if they are not visibly soiled. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers (containing 60 % alcohol) can also be used.
Follow strict respiratory etiquettes. Use your flexed elbow or tissue to cover your mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing.
Do not spit in public.
Ask members to book slots and make sure you allow a minimum of 15 minutesto 30 minutes between each slot.
Restrict the number of people allowed per group, depending on the studio's size and the nature of the exercise.
Ask personal trainers to maintain six feet distance from clients.
Check the temperature of everyone entering the gym and not let symptomatic or anyone with a fever enter.
Only let asymptomatic people enter.
Stick posters on preventive measures for COVID-19 in the reception and entrance. It will remind people to follow social distancing and wear a mask.
Train your staff on proper handwashing techniques, social distancing, and the appropriate way to use masks. Educate them on how COVID-19 is spread and how they can prevent it.
Proper Placement of Equipment:
Keep cardio and strength machines six feet apart.
If possible, move the equipment outdoors.
Mark the floor on the entrance and exit, maintaining at least six feet distance to manage the queue.
Encourage contactless or cashless payment.
Keep all windows and doors open for cross ventilation. If that is not possible, air conditioning should be kept between 24 ℃ to 30 ℃ and humidity between 40 % to 70 %.
Remove chairs from seating areas.
Do not let more than 5 to 10 people, including staff, in a specific workout area.
Use dustbins with lids, and keep them covered at all times.
Place alcohol-based hand sanitizers in multiple locations throughout the gym. Use them with a touch-free sanitizer dispenser.
If possible, close water stations and water fountains. Use no-touch bottle refill stations, or ask your clients and staff to carry water bottles.
Stock the restroom with soap and tissues.
Remove difficult-to-clean items like rubber mats and foam rollers.
Do not let people use the sauna, swimming pool, or steam room.
Clean frequently touched surfaces, like weights, cardio machines, exercise equipment, tables, chairs, door handles, doorknobs, toilets, sinks, etc., with detergent and water. Then disinfect them using diluted bleach solutions or 70 % alcohol solutions (preferably between each member).
You can prepare a bleach solution for disinfection by mixing five tablespoons of 5.25 to 8.25 % bleach in 3.7 liters of water, or four teaspoons of bleach in 1 liter of water. Make sure you use this solution within 24 hours and always mix room temperature water.
You can provide disposable disinfectant wipes to your customers to wipe all the equipment before and after they use them.
Using a clinically approved disinfectant, clean the floor every 4 hours. This includes the gym entrance, all rooms, reception area, and washrooms.
Wear a mask and PPE (personal protective equipment) while disinfecting the premises, and throw them after in a closed bin.
When an employee gets tested positive for COVID-19, then immediately inform the other employers. They should return to work when they become normal and test negative for COVID-19. Disinfect the areas according to the time since the person or the employee who was sick or diagnosed with COVID-19 was within the campus.
Individuals who are older than 65 years or have some medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, liver or kidney diseases, HIV, etc., should consider staying at home.
Stay home if you are sick.
Mandatory face coverings.
Wash your hands after talking to visitors or touching surfaces.
Use the phone or the internet to conduct business as much as possible.
Do not use your colleagues' phones, workstations, or other office equipment.
Maintain social distancing in break rooms and other common areas.
If possible, eat lunch outside, where physical distancing can be maintained.
If a staff member tests COVID-19 positive, isolate the staff member, and follow proper quarantine and disinfection procedures.
The person who intends to join gym must be fully vaccinated and get the booster dose if eligible.
Cooperate with COVID-19 screening at the entrance.
If you are coughing, and have a fever, do not go to the gym or anywhere else. Stay home and monitor symptoms.
Face coverings and masks are mandatory while inside the gym, which can be replaced with a face shield when working out. Change your mask or face covering if it gets wet.
Use an alcohol-based sanitizer to disinfect your hands before and after touching any equipment.
Make sure you stick to your pre-fixed timing. Please do not enter the facility before it is time for your slot.
If you have any underlying illness, consult your primary care provider to determine if it is safe for you to go to the gym.
COVID-19 transmission risk is high during cardio exercise due to increased respiration, so keep more than 6 feet distance while performing or if anyone else is performing such activities.
Avoid exercises that need close contact with your trainer or other people.
Do not linger in common areas.
Do not touch other members' items, apart from recreational equipment. Remember to wipe the equipment before and after you use it.
If possible, carry your yoga mats, water, towels, etc.
Do not drop your child in childcare.
Carry separate workout shoes.
Avoid indoor group classes, especially those that involve vigorous exercises, like cycling, Zumba, etc. Instead, opt for yoga or pilates.
Follow strict social distancing rules while entering or exiting the gym, exercising, or using the locker room.
Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth without washing your hands thoroughly first.
Get the COVID-19 test done if you are coming from an infected area before joining the gym.
Once you reach home, do not forget to wash your hands and wash and disinfect all the items you took to the gym, including your shoes and yoga mats.
Now that all the gyms and fitness centers have opened and are functioning at full capacity, it is vital for us to be cautious, maintain social distancing, wear face masks, use sanitizers, and get fully vaccinated (along with booster doses when eligible). This way, we can achieve our fitness goals while breaking the chain of virus propagation. Finally, it is important to ensure that your gym follows correct disinfection practices, conducts temperature checks, and manages social distance in the gym.
For more information, consult a doctor online now.
Last reviewed at:
25 May 2022 - 7 min read
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