Returning to the Gym during COVID-19

As gyms begin to reopen, many wonder if it is safe or wise to return. A gym is a place where community transmission is more likely because of shared spaces and equipment.  If you are in the high-risk or immunocompromised category, the gym may not be the safest option.

The staff at the gym cannot protect you. Personal responsibility is essential. Ask your gym about the sanitation practices of their machines, dumbbells, and other equipment.   What instructions are they giving gym members and guests to help decrease the spread of the virus? Are they knowledgeable about the safety of patrons and staff?  If not, find another gym or workout at home.

Gym employees will most likely be required to wear face coverings or stand behind sneeze guards, and you’ll be encouraged to do so as well, especially in areas where social distancing isn’t possible. Sign-in procedures should not require touch, and there should be a hand-sanitizer station as soon as you walk in the door. There will be some risks as you return to the gym, but you can take steps to reduce Coronavirus’s transmission.

Disinfect yourself and any surfaces that you touch at your gym, frequently. There are concerns about how equipment can be difficult to sanitize. Dumbbells and kettlebells, for instance, are high-touch metal, with strange shapes and many different places people can grasp; therefore, they are not easy to clean.

The gym space should have plenty of spray bottles containing disinfectant that meets Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) standards against Coronavirus, as well as clean cloths or wipes for sanitizing surfaces. The standard all-purpose wet wipes that most gyms use are not E.P.A-approved and will not kill most germs. It is also smart to bring your water bottle to avoid using drinking fountains. When spraying a disinfectant, give it time to kill bacteria before wiping.

It would be advisable to carry at least two clean towels. One to wipe sweat from your hands and face, another to put a barrier between you and any equipment.  Also, remember to bring your yoga or workout mat.

If you enjoy group workouts, social distancing is still a must.

Wear your mask, maintain 6 feet of distance between you and other gym patrons, whether using the machines or not.

When wearing masks, please note that they may rapidly dampen during exercise, reducing their antimicrobial benefits. A cloth mask is a good idea as it adds another layer of protection for you and others.

It is also imperative to have a well-ventilated gym. Preferably a gym that is using a system that continually refreshes inside air with filtered air from outside. If your gym does not use such a system, expect natural ventilation such as wide-open windows that help move air from inside out. If all of this seems to be overwhelming or cumbersome, the alternative would be to sticking to classes held outdoors, at home, or online as a better solution. Lastly, when finished with your workout, wash your hands! Use paper towels to turn on and off all faucets and to open all doors until you are out of the gym. Toss it in the trash.

It is up to you to accept some risks and be aware of the steps needed to mitigate them.

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