An Epidemiologist Explains Which Workouts Put You at a Greater Risk For Getting COVID-19

Depending on where you live, gyms and boutique studios have pivoted, taking their in-demand workouts digital and outdoors, in addition to preparing to reopen their physical spaces. There are still a lot of unknowns about the novel coronavirus (also known as COVID-19), and when it comes to fitness, there are a lot of questions people have such as what safety precautions to take when exercising around others.

If you're specifically wondering what styles of training are the safest to participate in to prevent getting COVID-19, the short answer is anything done outdoors. "Theoretically, yes, [there are workouts that are safer than others] because of the intensity of the breathing," I-Min Lee, MD, MPH, ScD, epidemiologist, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told POPSUGAR.

According to Dr. Lee, outdoor exercise is safer than indoor exercise "because of greater ability for any potential virus in the air to disperse." But, just because you're outdoors doesn't mean that you shouldn't heed expert advice to prevent spreading and contracting the virus. Dr. Lee's advice for safely exercising outdoors is to wipe down any items you bring with you — like your water bottle, yoga mat, and dumbbells — before and after you work out, wipe down your workout area, wash your hands before and after training, and don't touch your face. She also recommends wearing a mask and maintaining at least six feet of space between yourself and others and 12 feet if you're doing more intense workouts where your breathing is heavier.

Another thing to consider as gyms and studios reopen is the type of exercise you'll be doing. For example, although you generally don't breathe as intensely during yoga as you do during a HIIT class, "The duration of any potential exposure also makes a difference," Dr. Lee explained. During a yoga class, you might be spending an hour next to several other people, which can potentially put you at a greater risk of getting COVID-19.

In contrast, during a sprint interval workout, you may only be spending a few minutes near others "and, hopefully, far away from each other during the rest intervals," Dr. Lee said. "So, practically, I'm not sure if it makes a huge difference," Dr. Lee added, but these variables should play a factor in how you train and which group works you attend.

More importantly, as you determine which workouts to participate in, Dr. Lee said you should focus on how often the gym or workout area is being sanitized daily and between classes, whether or not attendees are wearing a face covering while working out, how much distance is between machines and equipment, and if people are properly spaced out in the class.

As more information is coming out daily about the coronavirus, we recommend staying updated on state and local goverment guidelines, in addition to guidelines from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

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.