Is It Safe To Head Back To The Gym?

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: May 13, 2020

In the White House’s guidelines for re-opening America, gyms and fitness centers are listed as “Phase 1” businesses, meaning that states are free to re-open these establishments as part of their first wave of returning to normal. As a caveat, gyms are only able to open, per the plan, if they meet required standards for social distancing and sanitation, and some states may still choose to keep them closed for longer periods of time. As you long to get back into your fitness routine, you should consider the risk, as well as how to best educate yourself to inform your decision.

How do I know if my gym is compliant?
Gyms are naturally averse to social distancing. From machines that are positioned close to one another, to packed locker rooms, to surfaces that can be touched thousands of times per day, gyms have always been considered a potential risk for unsanitary conditions if not cleaned often and cared for diligently. As you consider whether or not you should return to your gym or fitness studio, you should ask direct questions to management about how policies and procedures have changed. How are machines being sanitized? How are physical distancing measures being enforced? Are locker rooms being limited in capacity, and how often are they being cleaned? If you don’t receive clear and complete answers, or if you have evidence that the protocols are not being followed, you should reconsider your choice to return. This is especially true if you are part of a high-risk group for COVID-19.

What risks should I be aware of?
While the traditional guidance for safe social distancing has been to stay 6 feet apart, there is new and emerging evidence that COVID-19 spread can occur at even longer distances. This is particularly true if someone is undergoing heavy or forced breathtaking, which can propel the particles even further than 6 feet. Clearly, the gym could be a perfect case study for this type of situation. While two-way mask wearing may help reduce the risk of transmission through the air from person to person, given the uncomfortable nature of exercising with a mask, adoption of this technique could be low. Overall, the risk assessment you’ll need to make will depend heavily on how the gym is planning and prioritizing safety, up to and including space between machines and areas where members could congregate. Remember, you’re the customer, so feel free to speak up about any concerns you may have.

While we know that exercise is an important part of staying healthy, it’s critical to consider the overall risk of visiting a gym while COVID-19 is still actively spreading in some areas. This type of risk remains highest while we still lack a fully vetted treatment or vaccine, especially for those at higher risk of complications. Decisions like whether or not to return to the gym are personal, and should be weighed in accordance with your individual health situation, level of risk tolerance, and access to alternative options for fitness.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.