If your local fitness center has recently announced its plans to resume operations, it's understandable if you're hesitant to lace up your shoes and head back, even if you're missing your post-pandemic workout class. Like most normal everyday activities, you're probably wondering if it's even safe to go back to the gym? As it happens, health and fitness experts are asking the same thing, and urging individuals to think long and hard before reactivating that fitness studio membership.
"I would not recommend going to indoor gyms at this time," Dr. Nate Favini, Medical Lead of Forward, tells TZR. "We, as a country, still have not been able to contain this virus and the risk of transmission at indoor public places is still high, despite gyms starting to reopen. I would recommend outdoor fitness activities or home-fitness activities until we are able to access a successful vaccine at a nation-wide scale."
Michele Allen, a registered nurse and medical exercise specialist, says her gym, Killer Body Fitness, in Mineola, New York has continued classes outdoors in the parking lot of the studio and at a nearby park. But, there are a couple of safety measures both herself and the gym are taking. "Workout gloves are now mandatory at the gym even though we are outside," Allen notes. "I wear my mask until I get there and once we start working out the mask does come off." And when the workout is finished, the members put their masks right back on. Of course, the gym members also follow the recommended social distancing guidelines.
If you do decide to go back to your indoor gym, it's essential to know how to cautiously do so. "To stay safe amidst COVID-19, we must take multiple safety measures, including wearing masks, avoiding contact with other people whenever possible, especially strangers, and practicing proper sanitization," Maha El-Sayed, PhD., Chief Science Officer at Allied BioScience and an infectious disease expert who specializes in surface sanitation, tells TZR. "Sanitizing surfaces is an important defense against COVID-19, particularly in high-traffic areas such as gyms, where viral particles can be transmitted quickly." For more tips on how to return to the gym during the pandemic, keep scrolling below.
Tip For Going Back To The Gym: Wear A Mask
First things first: A mask must be worn at the gym. Dr. Philip M. Tierno, Jr, Professor of Microbiology & Pathology at NYU School of Medicine, says that a face mask protects you and others around you, so not only should you wear one, but everyone in the gym should be, as well. And the expert notes that something people don't always think about are microdroplets, which are very tiny particles that remain suspended in air and can be breathed in. But, he says that wearing a mask can stop a large amount of the droplets from coming in.
Tip For Going Back To The Gym: Practice Social Distancing
Dr. Tierno suggests using an apparatus or machine that's six to eight feet away from other gym-goers. And if this isn't attainable, a plexiglass shield should be installed in between machines. The same protocol goes for gathering in large groups — the professor says to avoid any congregating within the gym.
Tip For Going Back To The Gym: Wash Your Hands & Sanitize Machines
Dr. Tierno says when you're at the gym, you need to wash your hands after using each piece of equipment. But if you can't wash your hands in between going from machine to machine, he says to have a disinfectant on you. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol is a wise alternative to soap and water.
And any type of communal equipment needs to be properly attended to. "Sharing equipment with anyone does increase the risk of exposure," El-Sayed explains. "To minimize this, any time equipment changes hands, whether it is weights, mats, barres, or machines, you should fully sanitize the entire piece of equipment with an EPA-approved product to kill SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19."
Tip For Going Back To The Gym: Don't Touch Your Face
Though it's tempting to wipe the sweat off your face, refrain from doing so. "Never touch your eyes, nose, or mouth while you're exercising, because they are the conduits of entry into your body," Dr. Tierno says. The expert says ways you can directly get sick is by coughing or sneezing on a person, or by talking in the face of a person. And you can indirectly be exposed to germs by touching a machine and then touching either your eyes, nose, or mouth — which is how Dr. Tierno says we get sick 80 percent of the time.
Tip For Going Back To The Gym: Disinfect Your Phone
Dr. Tierno says it's the gym's responsibility to clean equipment. However, it's your obligation to clean your phone and other frequently touched items. "An iPhone is one of the things that get contaminated from your hands when you go to different places," he explains. For instance, you might go to a restaurant and put it on the table or counter, or put it in your purse as you touch it with dirty hands looking for money or a credit card.
Tip For Going Back To The Gym: Choose Certain Workouts
There are some workouts you can do while still maintaining six feet from other gym members. "You can also choose to do functional training or bodyweight exercises away from people," Rebeca Beldzik, certified personal trainer with RSP Nutrition, tells TZR. "Nowadays many trainers and gyms have online programs that you can follow, bring your phone and follow their routine." Or she says you can find a space and gather a pair of dumbbells, kettlebells, and a mat and do a HIIT routine. "People will know this is your space and keep a distance."