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COVID-19: Is it safe to go to the gym?

So you're finally able to start exercising again, and ready to hit the gym. But in the new world order, could a visit to your local healthclub, actually be bad for your health?

The Australian government have suggested that the benefits of physical exercise still outweigh the negatives at this point, but one physician, Dr. Norman Swan, who was interviewed on the ABC's Coronacast, a podcast dedicated to answering questions about COVID-19, labelled gyms as "high risk" locations for the disease to spread.  The data from China indicates the gyms are a high prevalence areas for the virus to spread.

Here's what we know:

  • Fitness equipment can be a happy home for germs.  A US company FitRated, which rates and compares fitness equipment, found that free weights can carry 362 times more germs than the average toilet seat (ewww)!
  •  The coronavirus can survive on surfaces for a few hours to several days
  • Human coronaviruses are spread from someone infected with COVID-19 virus through contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects.

But while gyms might seem like a petri dish for the disease, it doesn't necessarily mean that we should all stop going.  

Unless you are in the high-risk category; older adults over 60, have an already compromised immune system, or live in the same household/are in close contact with someone who fits this description, you don't necessarily need to skip the gym altogether, but there are a few things you can do to stay safe:

1. Practice social distancing.  If you've never tried it, venture into the front row of your cycle studio (or ask your gym to limit capacity and physically remove bikes - like my gym did, see pic), or move your yoga mat away from the person next to you, and try to choose times that are less likely to be busy times.  The general rule is maintaining a 1.5 metre radius, but I'd give it 2 metres to be safe!

2. Wash your hands like a crazy person. Before the gym, during your session, after the gym.  And consciously try to avoid touching your face. Hands up if you think we should bring back full headband and sweatband sets?

3. Disinfect surfaces, like you're cleaning them for your Mum. Did you read that stat before? 362 times more germs than your toilet seat. Make friends with your alcohol wipes!

4. If you're not feeling well, stay home. This one's pretty straightforward, and is so important for everyone's safety.  If you ever needed an excuse to skip the gym, here it is!

So that's what we know. Regardless of what the government recommend, it's so important to know the facts, and make the decision that feels right for you.  Of course, there are so many other ways you can get your glo on, outside of the gym - go for a walk, set up a home gym, do a live-stream of your favourite at home workout.

And if you feel like doing nothing at all, that's perfectly fine too.  Sometimes we all need a little reset.  In times like these, our number one priority is ourselves.  Be kind to yourself.