Monday 12th April, gyms open their doors for the first time since early January much to the relief for those working in the industry. But are you safe from COVID-19 when exercising in a gym?
Public Health England says there is no significant hotspot for infections in the gym. But when you exercise vigorously, your exhalations increase. Therefore, potential droplets or aerosols can infect other people.
In addition, people tend to touch handles and equipment in the gym. Then inadvertently they touch their faces!
We know that regular cleaning, social distancing and hand-sanitising can help drastically reduce the chance of infection from COVID-19, but the prospect of a hot summer and air-conditioning units blasting out recycled air is a worry.
AIR CONDITIONING IN GYMS
The UK Health and Safety Executive says the risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus in the workplace is extremely low “as long as there is an adequate supply of fresh air and ventilation” but adds: “if you use a centralised ventilation system that removes and circulates air to different rooms, it is recommended that you turn off recirculation and use a fresh air supply”.
Being physically active during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is very important for your physical and mental health.
Some air conditioners take in air from outdoors and expel it again, while others, called split units, recirculate the same air.
It is recommended that if you have one of these split units, open the window and sacrifice your desire for a cold or cooler environment. If there is a modicum of wind it will move the air around. If you can’t open a window, turn the unit off.
Guidance from the Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers warns that split units that do not have a dedicated source of outside air supply into a room could be responsible for recirculating and spreading airborne viral particles into the path of socially distanced users.
We also know that working out is hugely important for your mental and physical well-being.
The Guidance for the public on mental health and well-being aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19) by Public Health England report “doing exercise and other physical activity can have a positive impact on your mood, improve your sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety”.
And NHS inform state that “being physically active during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is very important for your physical and mental health”.
So priority for allowing physical activity is essential for our mental and physical well-being as we come out of lockdown. But is it necessary to go to a gym to workout?
Supermarkets are reportedly far more contagious environments to be in, as are pubs, restaurants and schools.
So, are gyms COVID-19 safe? How safe are fitness classes or weight rooms where physical proximity is unavoidable!
For me, outside workouts are a safer option. Any potential virus in the air will disperse. But safety guidelines must still be followed. Social distancing, hand-washing, mask wearing when in groups and the thorough disinfection and cleaning of equipment after every workout.
As a trainer, I prefer working out outdoors. In the last 12 months, I have not had a single cold. Pre COVID-19, I picked up numerous cold viruses whilst working and exercising in gyms. Coincidence?
And it’s clear to me that gyms with poor natural ventilation and a reliance on air-conditioning split units is a recipe for further unnecessary infections from this disease.
Personally I love exercising outdoors. Exposure to sunlight improves Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D helps to strengthen bones, muscles, support and enhance the immune system and help battle depression.
There is also a connection with mother nature. Try it. You may be surprised!
Stay safe and keep training.