Coronavirus: Is it safe to go to the gym and how to protect yourself during your workout

'You've got to be super careful', says doctor

Sarah Young@sarah_j_young
Thursday 19 March 2020 12:27
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Editors note: On Monday 16 March the government advised that the public should no longer be making non-essential trips, this includes places like the gym, pubs, restaurants and theatres.

For many people a trip to the gym is part of daily life but with fears surrounding the spread of coronavirus escalating, it has become yet another source of concern.

As cases of Covid-19 continue to rise and UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate.

So just how safe is it to attend your regular spin class or yoga session?

Speaking on the ABC’s Coronacast – a podcast dedicated to answering questions about the coronavirus – Dr Norman Swan, a physician and journalist, identified gyms as “high risk” locations for the disease to spread.

When asked how likely someone is to contract coronavirus in a gym, Swan said: “You have to say it is spreading and to say it is not [spreading] is burying your head in the sand.

“One of the high prevalence areas from some of the Chinese data are gyms.”

The medical expert continued by explaining that gyms are the perfect place for the virus to spread because they are often humid.

“Dampness is a bad thing for spreading germs so you want to swab those surfaces down,” he said.

'It doesn't mean you stop going to the gym but you've got to be super careful.”

Norman added that while there is no evidence of coronavirus being spread through sweat, transmission can occur if someone with the virus coughs or sneezes onto their hands and then touches surfaces, such as gym equipment.

Because of this, he suggested that hygiene standards must be increased during workouts.

“You've got to make sure you wipe down (the equipment) before and after use,” Norman said, “Don’t take any chances in the gym.”

The health journalist also advised gym-goers to avoid using areas such as steam rooms for the time being, adding: “'Don’t go in the steam room. I wouldn't go near any humid area to be honest.

“Is your life going to change by going in the steam room? No. I’d avoid them for the moment.”

In light of the ongoing concerns, a number of gym chains in the UK have introduced new policies to reassure members of their safety.

PureGym recently published a notice on its website informing customers that it has “increased the level of cleaning and hygiene” in all gyms, including ensuring all hand sanitiser and soap dispensers are filled.

The outlet also asked its members to help reduce the spread of illness through good personal hygiene, including “frequent hand-washing during visits” and “covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing”.

Similarly, DW Fitness First has issued a statement to all of its members to reiterate its hygiene processes, which include “thoroughly and regularly disinfecting and cleaning down all club surfaces and equipment”.

“In addition, we are installing notices in-club about the importance of hand hygiene, adding anti-bacterial surface wipes in club and ensuring all staff are kept fully up to date on this issue,” the notice continued.

While the UK government is yet to implement a formal “social distancing” strategy, there are a number of things you can do to ease anxiety surrounding the coronavirus while visiting the gym such as regularly washing your hands, wiping down equipment before and after use and being mindful of where you place your towel between uses.

Alternatively, people who are still concerned could consider visiting the gym at a time when it will not be as crowded or exercising outdoors.

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