Whether your state is reopening or still mostly shut down, you're probably paying close attention to the status of your local gym. Guidelines vary widely depending on your gym and region, but the ultimate decision will be an individual one. If your gym is open, is it actually safe to go right now? And what factors should you consider to make the safest decision?
Is It Safe to Go to My Gym Now?
"The gym is a place where community transmission is more likely due to the shared spaces and equipment," Anthony Barile, MD, infectious disease medical director at Health First, told POPSUGAR. Taking multiple precautions can make it safer; Dr. Barile noted that gyms should have people wearing masks, social distancing, and washing their hands, while cleaning equipment frequently. But even then, particularly if you're in the high-risk or immunocompromised category, "the gym may not be the safest option," Dr. Barile said. The type of exercise you're doing also plays a role; based on what we know now, high-intensity workout classes are likely more risky than activities like yoga. You'll need to weigh the risks based on your health and local guidelines to make the safest choice.
Coronavirus Gym Safety Checklist
In order to make the most informed decision, look into how your gym is adhering to coronavirus safety measures. Here are some factors to check on and questions to ask.
According to Dr. Barile, your gym should:
- Follow six-foot social distancing measures. Your gym should be altering its equipment setup and capacity limitations so you can stay six feet away from others as much as possible.
- Provide plenty of hygiene products. Ask if your gym will provide sanitation wipes, hand sanitizer, and handwashing stations around the gym.
- Regularly clean high-touch areas. Gyms themselves will need to be cleaned more frequently than before the pandemic, as the coronavirus can be transmitted by touching an infected surface (though this is less likely than inhaling the virus from a cough or sneeze). Patrons should also be discouraged from using shared equipment until it's been properly cleaned.
- Check temperatures. Many states are requiring both patrons and employees to have their temperatures checked at the gym entrance, using methods that don't require close contact (such as forehead thermometers.)
- Recommend the use of face masks. Gym employees will likely be required to wear face coverings and you'll be encouraged to do so as well, especially in areas where social distancing isn't possible. In some gyms, such as Planet Fitness, face masks are now required for both patrons and employees. Here are breathable face mask options to consider for your workouts.
Even if your gym checks off all the boxes, remember that "it's still everyone's responsibility to limit the spread of the virus," Dr. Barile said. That means thoroughly wiping down equipment with sanitizing wipes (before and after use), wearing a face mask, and washing your hands frequently with soap and water and for at least 20 seconds each time. The hard truth: "If your gym doesn't make these procedures feasible," Dr. Barile said, "Then a better alternative would be to work out at home or go to a different gym that prioritizes sanitization and safety."
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.