COVID-19 And The Gym: How Safe Is It?

It’s almost three years since the lockdown took effect due to covid-19 pandemic. Amongst the many establishments previously closed due to lockdown, gyms were on the top of the list.

After years of hiatus, gyms are beginning to reopen with new covid-19 guidelines. If you were an avid gym goer deeply impacted by the lockdown, there is good news for you. Now, things are finally getting better, and with massive drops in covid cases, you can finally try to go to the Gym by taking necessary precautionary measures.

Is the Gym a hotspot for covid-19?

Yes, the likelihood of getting a covid-19 virus from the Gym is substantially higher than in another establishment. Breathing the same air as other people in a confined space is the easiest way to catch a respiratory illness. 

A viral infection is mainly caused by aerosols, tiny droplets that spread in the air you breathe, which were identified as the major source of covid-19 transmission. Through the pandemic, fitness spaces like gymnasiums, spin classes, and fitness clubs were identified as a source of new cases.

According to scientific research published in PNAS, a person can emit aerosol around 132 times per minute during high-intensity workouts, which could result in a hotbed of transmission. Meanwhile, at rest, a person emits only around 580 particles per minute, but during exercise, a person can emit up to 76,200 particles per minute.

However, the study has limitations and requires further research. Firstly, the sample size includes only 16 people, and none had covid-19 during that time. 

On the other hand, the research has shed light on how particles are released. Each subject breathed clean air through silicone masks and exhaled them into a plastic bag during the workout. This allowed researchers to remove the source of contamination to get credible results. Some participants also released more aerosols than others. Especially, fitter people who are more experienced in high endurance training emitted 85% more aerosols than the rest. According to experts, this could be because the muscles of professional bodybuilders are put to an enormous amount of work, and they need to support their muscles by taking enormous amounts of oxygen. 

Is it safe to go to the Gym in 2023?

If that scares you to enter the Gym, then you should remember that not all gyms are the same. With the proper health guidelines and setup, you can still work out without exposing yourself to the virus. For instance, gyms with large spaces and high ceilings allow more room for the air to escape and circulate fresh air. 

Other things to look for in a gym are their vaccination requirement, professional equipment to measure the airflow, and installing air filters. Masks policy can also be beneficial to keeping the place safe.

Being fully vaccinated means you are more protected from covid-19, providing you with more flexibility in doing things safely. However, whether to join a gym or workouts at home should be your personal decision.

If you are not vaccinated, it would be wise to continue working out at your home. In fact, most gyms have made it mandatory only to allow fully vaccinated members. 

Precautions before going Gym

Vaccinated or not, if you are thinking of returning to the Gym, here are six ways to protect yourselves and the others that may come in contact with you. 

Check for safety standards and policies

Call the establishment and ask for their implemented safety guidelines and standards. Some gyms limit the number of members that can enter at a given give; some even ask their patrons to sign up for time slots in advance. It’s even better if you visit the Gym at off-peak hours when the building is mostly empty. 

Besides you must also inquire about their cleaning and disinfection practices and ask if they have implemented any health screening procedures, such as checking body temperature and implementing mandatory outfits such as gloves, socks, masks, etc.

Keep your distance

The CDC recommends maintaining a distance of at least six feet between you and others. Experts suggest extending the space even more while working out. As mentioned above, heavy breathing expels a significant level of aerosol particles into the air, so keeping your distance and wearing protective clothing and masks is the best way to avoid the virus. 

If you have the budget, you can opt for gyms that provide separate rooms, including equipment like weights, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. It is way safer than every member picking equipment from one spot. 

Disinfect your equipment 

Make sure to disinfect your equipment before and after using it, even if your Gym is doing a great job in the disinfectant department. The usual way is to spray the equipment from a distance and let it sit there for a minute before you wipe it off. Also, you need to disinfect the knobs, buttons, and control panels. 

Bring your own towels

While many gyms provide towels to members, bringing your own clean towels with you is better. You will need at least two- one for covering the surface you want to lay upon and the other for wiping sweat from your face and body. Please make sure the towels are of different colors, so you don’t interchange them accidentally.

Ask for airflow

You have a 19% more chance of catching covid-19 in indoor settings compared to the outside. This is because viral particles keep lingering in indoor air without proper ventilation. Aim to get out of the establishment as soon as you can. Try to limit spending time wandering inside the Gym, getting pictures, or doing anything that distracts you from working out. 

Make sure the doors and windows of the establishment are open, and the ceiling is high. This allows natural airflow to dilute the viral load and circulate filtered air outside. It would be even better to go to gyms that have high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration units installed. 

Wash your hands before coming out

Wash your hands as soon as you complete your workout session, followed by dabbing some hand sanitizer immediately. No need to change or shower at the Gym; it’s better to do that in your home.