Unlocking the Economy: How safe is it to hit the gym?

Prepare a checklist before you hit the gym.

India is gearing up to come back on the track of normalcy from the coronavirus induced lockdown and according to the latest directions, fitness centers and studios have been allowed to re-open from August 5 in Unlock 3.0. Post-lockdown scenes, however, would be different as stern safety measures including sanitization, social distancing, among others need to be followed.

Assess your own risk!

According to an infectious disease specialist, "You have to make your own assessment of how risky  it is based on knowing your medical situation and whether you are someone who's at high risk for an infection."

People 65 years and older are at higher risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So are people with certain underlying health conditions, like diabetes, heart or lung disease, or those who are immunosuppressed.

So if you fall in a high-risk category, it may not be worth the risk. "Avoid going to the gym."

Consider alternatives for working out!

Exercise is good for physical and mental health, but with coronavirus cases surging across the country, exercising indoors with other people could increase your chance of infection. If you want to exercise indoors, it's safer to do it at home. 

On the other hand, outdoor exercise is a great low-risk alternate. When you are outside it's easier to refrain from getting close to other people. 

Assess your gym's safety measures!

To keep yourself at bay from the risk of Covid-19, you need to assess things at gyms. Prepare a checklist before you hit the gym.

"Are they taking your temperature?"

"Are you seeing them regularly clean workout gears?"

Keep yourself updated with the SOPs, built for gyms and fitness studios to follow. 

Most guidelines suggest limiting the capacity to keep the gym from getting crowded, routine disinfection of all equipment including machines and weights before and after use, posting signs to reinforce hygiene and other policies, and all recommend physical distancing.

In fact, that should be the number one thing on your checklist: Is there at least six feet of physical distance between everyone who is working out? Even more, would be better. 

Another tip: Go during off-hours when they'll be fewer people.

Beware! Maintain Social Distancing

Maintaining social distancing is among one of the most stressed and crucial preventive measures which one has to keep in mind every single second. Stay at least six feet away from other people while you are exercising. And, if people are breathing heavily, "it would be preferable to double that to 12 feet."

However, it still remains a question for most of us, how far the virus can travel when people are breathing heavily? 

And if you're thinking to take a group exercise class, think again, because it can be very difficult to keep six feet apart when moving around quickly.

"You may be breathing harder, people may be coughing, it may be hard to keep on masks, and you might come up with some concerns about that."

A small study from South Korea looked at coronavirus spread at 12 different sports facilities. It found that infection spread rapidly among high-intensity fitness dance classes with up to 22 students. Whereas yoga and pilates classes, with just seven or eight participants and little moving around, saw no spread.

So if you really want to take a group exercise class make sure it's small and that you can maintain a distance of six to 12 feet away from others.

Look for air ventilation! 

"Your best bet is going to be a gym that is larger, able to have windows open or have multiple floors or levels to allow for physical distancing". 

That's because more space and more airflow dilute the concentration of the virus in the air and likely reduce the risk of transmission.

If you're exercising hard then you're tending to draw in and exhale more air. This is especially important because there's increasing evidence to suggest that people who are not symptomatic are, in fact, transmitting the infection. 

In fact levels of the virus found in the nose or throat of asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals "can be considerable and are equivalent" to the amount of virus found in individuals with symptoms of coronavirus, according to an expert in Covid analysis. 

So people who feel well enough to exercise may not realize they are infected and maybe on the weight machine next to you.

Do wear a mask! 

Our experts say it's best to wear a mask as much as possible in the gym, including at the front desk, in the locker room, and the bathroom — and even while doing light exercise. But of course, when you're working out hard and breathing heavily it can be difficult to keep a mask on.

And even if people don a mask when they enter the gym, it is highly recommendable to maintain at least a minimum 6-foot physical distance, because at some points people may inadvertently remove their mask, which can be risky for others.

Also Read: Why daily stretching is a health necessity?

"Physical exercise is important for your physical and mental health but you still have to be smart. Wearing a mask is part of being smart, along with physical distancing, disinfecting equipment, and vigilant hand washing."

Change Clothes! 

Members must wear a fresh pair of clothes while returning from the gym/yoga centers, and authorities must ensure that the equipment and floors are disinfected after every use.

Trace the Location too! 

And, finally, consider your geographic location. Exercising indoors in hot spots where cases are surging is riskier than in areas with low infection rates. So check out the red, orange, and green zones of your area before you are making your mind to hit the gym.

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