Returning To The Gym After Coronavirus

people working out in weights gymGyms, fitness classes and martial arts schools have closed all over the world in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, and this strategy appears to be working, with fewer cases reported in areas where there has been a full lockdown. Hopefully we’ll soon see governments give gyms and fitness classes permission to open up again, but when this happens, it is vital that you still take some safety measures.

Why is Closing Gyms So Important?

Gyms are a breeding ground for germs, with often warm and sweaty environments that bacteria just loves to grow on. That combined with people sweating, panting and sometimes spluttering their way through a workout, means that germs and viruses can easily be spread.  Unless every piece of equipment in a resistance training gym is thoroughly cleaned after each use there is a real risk of one person leaving the equipment contaminated with the coronavirus. Coronavirus cannot be transmitted directly through sweat (at least, that is thought to be the case at the time of writing) but people can leave the virus lingering on equipment.

In fitness classes the biggest problem is with people exercising close to each other. You only need one person to carry the virus in a cough a couple of times, and by the end of a one hour workout, everybody in the room would have been exposed to it.

Martial arts classes have the added problem of people coming into direct contact with each other, and often sweat is transferred from person to person, which although not necessarily a problem for coronavirus, is a great way to spread bacterial infections. Also, many martial arts schools train almost exclusively with people paired up and facing each other, so in these situations it would be very easy to spread a virus.

Health scientists have discovered that coronavirus can lay dormant, but be contagious, in a person for up to a week before they show symptoms. So if you go to a gym, or any public space, seemingly healthy people can be spreading the virus around.

When the Lockdown Ends

People are already asking, when will the lockdown end? To be honest, nobody knows, but an exit strategy must include the following to be effective, and prevent the further spreading of the virus:

  • No new recorded cases
  • No hospital admissions or deaths
  • Full testing of everybody for coronavirus before they can leave isolation
  • Full testing of everybody for coronavirus antigens before they can mix with people who have not had it
  • Coronavirus vaccination

Ideally a vaccine will be created and mass produced on an unprecedented scale so that we can make everybody immune, and then it would not matter if people in the community have it. But a vaccine is thought to still be around 18 months away, which takes us up to Autumn 2021 before we could all be immune. Time believes the lockdown could least 18 months.

Testing is all very well, if the test kits can be created and distributed, and then enough health workers are available to carry out the tests. But then there is the question of how to manage those that have had it and are potentially immune (we do not know how long antigens will survive in the body, people might start catching it every year), and those who have not had it yet. Should we only allow people to leave the house if they have already had coronavirus, which means all the careful people are effectively punished and told to stay at home?

As you can see, it is a very tricky situation, which is why countries such as the USA and UK first decided to go for the “herd immunity” approach, whereby you just let everybody catch it, while isolating the most vulnerable, so that it reduces the risk of the virus taking hold in the community again. However, it was soon realised that this approach would actually lead to far more deaths than either the US or UK governments predicted, as it turned out the Covid-19 does kill young people as well as the elderly. Plus, so many people needed to be admitted to hospital that routine medical treatments and operations have had to be cancelled, and even some cancer therapies and other life saving treatments are being pushed back, resulting in more people dying of natural causes than we would normally expect.

But, one day the lockdown will end, and when it does, we’ll be allowed back into the gyms, fitness classes, sports clubs and martial arts dojos. But will it be completely safe? Probably not!

How To Stay Safe in the Gym

These are only our recommendations for when the lockdown is lifted, it is not official government advice. Hopefully the government will provide guidance when the time comes, but if not, this advice should help reduce the risk of catching the virus when the gyms reopen:

  • Workout as far from others as possible
  • Use hand sanitizer in between each piece of equipment you use
  • Avoid using communal water fountains
  • Don’t touch your face or mop your brow
  • Use a clean towel just for wiping sweat
  • Use another cloth for wiping down sweaty equipment
  • Don’t buy snacks from the machines – the buttons may be contaminated
  • Shower after your workout, and put all gym clothes in a plastic bag and wash as soon as you get home
  • If you cannot shower at the gym, wash your hands up to elbows, then go straight home and shower immediately.

Fitness classes and martial arts will be different. In many fitness classes everybody has their own personal space to workout, so stay in your space. Avoid too much socialising before and after the class – the less contact you have, the better. If doing martial arts, use hand sanitizer (or wash if a sink is available) straight after.

Stay Clean and Hygienic

Carrying some hand sanitizer is still a good idea, even if you have access to washing facilities. You don’t have to be obsessive and carry it with you everywhere, but use it before hitting the gym, and again after. Ideally, as soon as you finish your workout have a shower, and if showers are not available, thoroughly wash your hands, wrists and lower arms, and also wash your face. Remember, the hand sanitizer will also help protect your hands from the virus after using it.

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