COVID-19 precautions: Should you be heading back to your gym now that it will be allowed to reopen?
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of lockdowns, outdoor exercise and gymming took a back seat.
With the introduction of Unlock 3.0 and its proposed implementation from 5 August 2020 onwards, a new set of restrictions will be lifted across India. Among these eased restrictions is the reopening of gyms and yoga centres in areas which have not been deemed containment zones. But given the fact that India is now placed third in the list of nations with the most number of confirmed COVID-19 infections, and still has an alarming rate of new infections, you might be wondering if going back to your local gym is a good idea even if it does reopen.
Why you may feel like going to the gym
Physical activity is an essential part of life, and experts across the world recommend getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every day to maintain good health. But since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of lockdowns, outdoor exercise and gymming took a back seat. A recent study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology points out that although “gyms and workout classes provide a sense of community, support, and personalized instruction, they are also crowded areas with lots of surface area that can transmit infections, and simply wiping sweat off with a towel is not enough.”
The study also indicates that the pandemic led to a new home fitness revolution as people took to fitness apps and workout videos to stay active as well as in shape. Exercise at home also became popular as a way for families to bond and pass their time. Even so, it is natural for someone who has been a regular at a gym for years to miss the discipline, motivation and support that such a place provides. Moreover, with well over four months of restricted living, caution fatigue is bound to set in, leading to the urge to rush to the gym as soon as it opens.
Things to consider before you rush to the gym
While it’s natural to want to get back to the “old normal” pre-pandemic lifestyle where hitting the gym was a regular thing, the fact is that there’s a lot you need to consider before doing so again. The key thing you need to know is that transmission risks have not changed or gone down as such, so if you can do without going to the gym and manage your workouts at home, then that would be the best option. However, if you must go to the gym then consider doing the following things well ahead of it:
1. Call ahead: Call your local gym management or trainers ahead to check what their opening hours are, what safety measures they’re taking, how they’re going to maintain those measures, etc. Ask them if they’re checking the staff and members’ temperature on entry, disinfecting equipment regularly, maintaining physical distance between the gym-goers, if they have individual exercise pods, markings or some separation to maintain distance, or if they’re scheduling workouts to minimise crowds. Knowing how they’re responding to this crisis will be your best method of assessing the risks. If a gym is not able to provide the security you need, it would be better to avoid it until the situation improves.
2. Check ventilation: An indoor space that’s not properly ventilated is a cesspool for all kinds of bacteria and virus, especially since constant sweating also adds to the moisture and heat levels inside the gym. Avoid gyms which don’t have enough ventilation, or are located in basements.
3. Maintain distance: If you’re satisfied with the safety measures your gym is taking and willing to join back, then keep social distancing foremost in your mind. Avoid rush hours at all costs.
4. Carry your gear: Carry your own sanitizers, clean towels, masks, disinfectant wipes, yoga mats, etc. every time you visit the gym and use them properly to minimise cross-contamination.
5. No sharing: Gyms are shared spaces, but sharing equipment is not ideal right now. Ask for the shared equipment, like weighted plates, barbells, dumbbells, treadmills, cycling machines, etc. to be disinfected before you use them. Avoid using foam rollers and exercise balls.
6. Assess your health: Don’t step out if you’re not feeling well. Whether you have COVID-19 or not, going to shared spaces like offices and gyms when you’re sick is not a good idea because infections are transmitted at these places at a much higher rate. Ensure that your fellow gym members follow the same rule for mutual safety.
7. Assess your locality’s health: If there’s a surge of infections where you live or where your gym is located, it’s best to avoid going to the gym until the numbers are in your favour. This is because asymptomatic patients of COVID-19 can also spread the virus.
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider before you decide to head back to the gym. Ask yourself if it’s worth the risk, and remember that taking precautions now - like sticking to a home fitness routine with minimum exposure and infection risk - might be best suited for you until the times change for the better.
For more information, read our article on Working out in gyms during COVID-19 pandemic.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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