Gyms and workout studios are challenging businesses to reopen amid the coronavirus healthcare crisis.
Social distancing is difficult and wearing protective gear, such face masks and gloves, might hinder the workout. But as states begin to allow these establishments to open their doors to clients, safety is still a priority, and new rules will be implemented.
According to HuffPost, Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, the associate director of infection control and assistant professor of infectious disease and critical care medicine at University of Nebraska Medical Center, is concerned about the spread of the virus in crowded classes or gyms where the air flow is poor.
"Exercise increases the frequency and depth of breathing, so there is potential impact of increased aerosols at this time," she told HuffPost. Aerosols are the small particles people exhale when breathe or talk that could contain the coronavirus.
"Masks would be ideal, but we also know those can be difficult to wear during exercise and may not be mandated."
To overcome some of the intrinsic obstacles in keeping gyms safe, experts suggested the following guidance:
- Cleanliness is foremost. According to HuffPost, frequent cleaning and sanitizing of all surfaces is key. Facilities should also provide sanitizing wipes for clients to clean gym equipment, before and after use.
- Hands-free check-ins will become the new norm. Establishments will implement digital check-in systems and limit contact with front desk staff. Lockers, showers, and sitting areas are likely to remain shut down for the time being or a limited amount of people will be allowed to enter. Most gyms, yoga studios, and other fitness facilities will no longer dispense towels or mats, experts told HuffPost.
- Social distancing will be enforced. Members will be asked to space themselves 6 feet apart. Gym owners will make sure weight training equipment, treadmills, and spin bikes are strategically placed in order to ensure safe distancing. Some gyms have placed floor markers throughout their facilities, including restrooms and lockers, to illustrate where you should stand or wait.
- Limiting the number of occupants is essential. According to Self, gyms must limit the number of members allowed in the gym itself and in group classes. They might also perform temperature checks, said experts, and institute a policy that anyone who is ill cannot come in.
Cawcutt added gym goers can help themselves stay safe by carrying their own hand sanitizer, wearing a mask, washing their hands often, and visiting the gym when it is less crowded.
Dr. Waleed Javaid, M.D., the director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai Downtown in New York, told Self it is also up to each individual to weigh the risks and benefits of returning to the gym at this time.
"Is it necessary, is it vital, is it worth the risk?" he asked.
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