After months of trying to stay fit in quarantine, now that gyms are starting to reopen, members may be wondering how safe it is to exercise indoors at local studios and fitness facilities. With proper hygiene practices and physical distancing, a recent Norwegian study found no virus transmission or increase in COVID-19 disease was related to the opening of indoor fitness facilities.
According to a recent Michigan Health Watch report, health officials in the city of Oslo, Norway tracked and tested nearly 1,900 members aged 18 to 64 who were invited to return to their gym for a two-week trial period. Study participants were required to wash their hands, avoid body contact, and keep three feet apart during floor exercises and six feet apart during high-intensity classes. Members were allowed access to lockers but not to showers or saunas and although masks were not required, participants were reminded not to touch their nose, mouth, or eyes.
Employees at the gyms were also tested for the novel coronavirus and none received a positive result. Researchers found only one COVID-19 case among participants invited to return to their gym; the individual was tested before using the facility and their infection was traced back to their workplace. Distancing and handwashing practices continue to be an inexpensive, effective, and simple means of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Many fitness centers have survived the shut-down by offering outdoor and online classes to their members. But as the weather starts to cool, and especially in the winter months, outdoor classes will no longer be an option. Each individual must form their own judgment whether exercising at a public indoor space is worth the possible exposure to the virus, especially if they have an underlying health condition.
Because the number of COVID-19 cases varies widely between communities, gym openings may be staggered depending on the perceived risk of infection. As always, talk with your doctor if you have questions about returning to the gym or starting any new exercise program. Be sure to ask fitness facilities what their plan is for sanitization, distancing, testing, face masks, and member hygiene.
If in-person exercise classes are out of your comfort zone, September is National Yoga Awareness Month and there are many online live Zoom classes available, maybe even from your local studio or community center. Supporting small businesses in your home town can help ensure they will still be around when it is safe for everyone to return to in-person classes.