As gyms across the U.S. reopen, many will take precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. You may need to make an appointment for your workout, your temperature (which will need to be below 100.4 degrees) may be checked, or you may be asked heath questions – Do you have a cough or flu-like symptoms?
Before you go to your gym, ask its operators questions as well – How do they clean the equipment? Do they limit the facilities’ capacity? Do the staff members wear masks? Official guidance on how gyms reopen varies state by state – to find your state’s restrictions click here. Despite the risks, many will welcome a gym workout over working out at home.
Here are a few safety tips to help limit your risk of getting sick from the coronavirus.
Gear up: What you need before you go
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a cloth mask (not a surgical mask or N-95 respirator, which should be reserved for health care workers) “when social distancing is difficult” and when wearing one is “feasible.”
State laws may differ on gym regulations, but it’s best to check what the gym requirements are when it comes to masks. Medical gloves are not needed as they can be another source of contamination if they aren’t removed and disposed of correctly.
Instead, the CDC recommends washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds. Bring disinfecting wipes to sanitize machines and equipment before use. Take your own water bottle with you since most water fountains will be closed. You’ll need your own sweat towel, too, since some facilities will not have them available.
Check on the fitness centers’ cleaning practices
The smell of disinfectant should replace the smell of a sweaty gym. Fitness facilities are required to sanitize equipment, including ellipticals, treadmills, weights machines, and free-weights, with EPA-approved cleaning products. Users are asked to wipe down equipment before and after use. Some gyms may have shorter hours because of cleaning procedures.
Keep your distance while working out
Be sure to stay at least 6 feet away from others while working out. Gyms strictly follow the CDC’s social distancing guidelines of 6 to 8 feet. If others are breathing heavily, it’s best to be at least 12 feet away. Be mindful of close-contact areas so you can ensure 6-foot spacing. Be alert in check-in areas, locker rooms, free-weight areas, weight equipment, cardio machines, and group fitness studios. Some facilities closed contact sports areas such as basketball courts and racquetball courts because of the high risks.
Take extra precautions with shared equipment
Wipe down the fitness equipment before and after use with disinfecting wipes or sanitizer. It may be harder to sanitize some equipment, such as foam rollers, resistance bands or yoga blocks, so it’s best to avoid them.
Limit or avoid group classes
Many facilities provide outdoor or virtual group fitness classes. Facilities with in-person classes should have a limited number of participants. Some studies have shown that infections can spread faster in high-intensity fitness dance classes with more than 20 participants. Classes for pilates and yoga with less than 10 participants had no spread of illness. If you really want to do a group exercise class, be sure it limits participants, and maintain a distance of 6 to 12 feet from others.
Skip the locker room
Many fitness centers limit the use of amenities in locker rooms. Showers and saunas will remain closed, but the restrooms should be available. It’s best if you bring your own sweat towel. You’ll need to head home for your after-workout shower.
If you’re at a higher risk of serious illness – over the age of 65 or with health issues – you might want to hold off going the gym. Check with your fitness center about virtual classes or training.
Contributing: Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY
SOURCE Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Mayo Clinic; AARP; NPR; USA TODAY research