COVID-19 and Gyms: Is It Safe to Go Back There?

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We have to admit that we all want to go back to the gym to resume our normal exercise routine, but is it safe to go back there? This topic is quite controversial because some medical experts recommend going to the gym to keep your body healthy and improve your mental health as well – especially after this stressful pandemic that has caused only anxiety and stress – while other researchers suggest that moist, warm air and interaction with other people can create a favorable environment for the spread of the virus. 

Of course, some doctors recommend outdoor workouts, but now we can also visit gyms if we follow certain hygiene rules, such as cleaning every gym machine, disinfecting your hands before touching any surface and keeping social distance. If you are ready to stick to these rules, then you can go back to the gym. 

Now that the restrictions have diminished, people are allowed to resume certain activities, but they have to follow certain social etiquettes and behave in a certain way depending on where they are. For instance, if you are on public transportation you should wear a face mask, but when it comes to the gym, you should schedule your workout beforehand and disinfect everything around you. 

Even though people are allowed to go to the gym, it doesn’t mean that you are safe or that the pandemic is gone forever. Don’t forget that you will touch certain surfaces that have been touched by others before you, used the same yoga mats and shared the same locker room. According to experts, gyms are one of the riskier places when it comes to exposure to the virus. So, here’s what you need to do to reduce your risk of getting sick. Read on for more info!

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How important is it to go to the gym?

Of course, you can do your workouts outdoors or at home, but you lose your motivation over time. When you go to the gym you see other people work hard for their goals and this can increase your motivation levels. In fact, you should realize how important is to go to the gym regularly and what benefits it has in the long run. Moreover, it has been proven that gym exercises can improve your mental health and increase the level of happiness. 

According to Nikita Desai, MD, a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, “squashing the spread of the disease is imperative, but people also need to take care of their mental and physical health, and fitness is a big part of that.” 

“It’s really about doing everything you can to reduce risk, knowing the risk can never be completely eliminated,” Michael A Ben-Aderet, MD, associate medical director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedar-Sinai added. 

That being said, the main idea is that you can actually go to the gym every day if you follow a few simple hygiene rules, such as washing your hands for at least twenty seconds, disinfecting both your hands and the gym machines before touching them, cover the yoga mats with a personal towel, cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze, and wear a face mask when you are in the locker room. 

Before exposing yourself to this risk, you can talk to your doctor and ask for more details. In general, people who suffer from other diseases, such as lung and heart diseases, cancers, diabetes and obesity, or they are older, are more likely to develop severe symptoms.

As we said before, just because you are allowed to go to the gym, restaurant, park and so on, it doesn’t mean that you are safe. In fact, you should take into consideration your medical history.

However, another important thing that you need to consider when it comes to the gym is to ask the staff about safety measures. You should know exactly their policies and what they are doing to keep you safe during your workout. For instance, some gyms will ask you to wear a mask during your training, while others will probably want you to make an appointment beforehand. 

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You should take with you hand sanitizer, sealed water bottles, towels, and disinfectant wipes. Don’t use gloves, as they can create a favorable environment for the virus.  

According to Jade Flinn, MSN, RN, an infection prevention and personal protection equipment nurse educator at Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit, “the use of gloves is not recommended as they can often act as a route for cross-contamination (moving contamination from one object or surface to another. Goggles are not necessary if you maintain social distancing, continue to mask, and maintain good hand hygiene.”

“Continue to wear masks when in public, including the gym, as they begin to open up at a reduced capacity,” Flinn added. 

If you have to use a yoga mat, try to cover it with a towel or disinfect it. “If yoga positions require you to put your face on a mat, I would prefer to use my own freshly disinfected mat. The science on the transfer of the virus from a surface to a human is still under investigation and theoretically possible — yet less important than the direct exposure,” explained Pamela Aaltonen, PhD, RN, professor emerita at Purdue University.

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Experts suggest avoiding locker rooms as much as possible. According to Dr. Ben-Aderet, “When we talk about locker-rooms, we’re often talking about people who aren’t able to socially distance properly. And I doubt people will be wearing masks consistently while showering.”

“Wash your hands before you get in your car. Shower as soon as you enter the house and isolate the workout clothes,” explained Saadia Griffith-Howard, MD, an infectious disease specialist for Kaiser Permanente.

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