Heading back to the gym? Doctors explain how to stay safe

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. >> Are some workouts, such as yoga or spinning classes, less safe than others? Do I have to wear a mask? Do I need to be more than two meters apart in cardio classes where panting and breathing are heavy?

There are many legitimate concerns about how gyms and fitness studios can be safely reopened without promoting the spread of the corona virus. But infectious disease experts say the risk can be significantly reduced by following some simple rules.

“There may be scenarios where (the gym) can’t develop a system where your risks are lower, so the responsibility is yours,” says Dr. Deverick Anderson, director of the Duke Center for Antimicrobial Stewardship and Infection Prevention.



“If you put that barbell down, you should immediately wash your hands. You should assume that if you accidentally touch your eyes, you are putting yourself in danger,” said Anderson.

Bring your own towel, wash each appliance before and after use, so you don’t trust whether someone followed the rules before you. Most gym wipes are not strong enough, so bring your own disinfectant or inquire about what the gym uses. And before you jump on the treadmill or grab your weight, let the spray sit on the device for a minute or two, he says.

Surfaces, not people, may offer more options for contact with the virus. Experts have said several things, but some believe that the virus can last up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two or three days on plastic and stainless steel. But the federal centers for disease control say – and emphasized again last week – that surfaces are not considered an important path for transmission.

If an infected person’s breathing drops get on surfaces, “ they can definitely be spread out there, and it’s very common to wipe sweat off your forehead, ” said Dr. Kristin Englund, an infectious disease expert at Cleveland Clinic. “But if you swipe your eyes or nose, you carry the virus there.”


Cardio training and fitness classes can carry increased risks.

“Being on an elliptical machine and breathing heavily, I’m afraid I might spread the virus more strongly because people will be panting and sweating,” Englund said. “I think there is a greater risk of taking classes where you do a lot of cardio.”

Anderson agrees that there should be a distance of at least two meters in cardio settings – and understands that the risk is ‘not the same as walking to the supermarket two meters away’.


Anderson acknowledges that it is impractical to wear masks while sweating, but he suggests wearing them to enter and exit facilities. Employees, he says, should definitely wear masks.

A plethora of signs that emphasize hand washing and equipment cleaning is helpful initially, but eventually people get used to it, he says.


To some extent, as the guidance varies by city and state, your training will be as safe as you choose. Every facility undoubtedly has people who do and don’t follow security measures.

In short, is it worth it?

Anderson says, “For many people, I think the answer to that is yes. For some people, the answer to that is still no, as we learn more and more about this disease and who is most at risk. ”

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