Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were around 10 million gym members in the UK.
The Government announced a country-wide shutdown of leisure facilities in March and many gyms, studios and leisure centres put a hold on membership fees.
Initially, it was a surprise.
During the previous week, many gyms had started implementing social distancing policies and were cleaning more meticulously, capping the number of people allowed in at one time and spacing out equipment. They had hoped that additional safety measures would allow them to operate during the pandemic.
Even we were surprised as barely a week before the lockdown, we wrote a post on how to stay safe in the gym during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Needless to say, that post didn’t age well.
We know that exercise is key in boosting the body’s immunity, so there’s never been a more important time for us to start exercising regularly, but COVID-19 poses a real threat to life and the gym environment could be what helps the virus to spread more freely.
Can Coronavirus Spread through Sweat?
COVID-19 is spread via infected respiratory droplets. If an infected person coughs or sneezes, the virus can be inhaled by other people directly or indirectly through contaminated surfaces they’ve touched that someone else then touches.
Coronavirus doesn’t spread through sweat.
Speaking to LBC Consultant virologist Chris Smith said, that the virus grows in the respiratory tract and that’s how coughs and sneezes spread it. Sweat made in the sweat glands doesn’t have direct contact with the source of the virus and so it’s not a viable means of transmission.
So Why are the Gyms Shut?
Sweat doesn’t spread Coronavirus but gyms are an ideal environment for it to infect many people at once.
We already know that you can catch some pretty nasty viruses from a gym.
You have a confined space with people moving freely between equipment. If one person is infected and they cough or sneeze onto their hands and then touch a barbell or treadmill control, they can then infect another person.
When someone is breathing hard they can spray infected respiratory droplets into the air which can then be inhaled by someone else or which can land onto nearby surfaces thereby contaminating them.
Sharing equipment is a big problem, too, and you’ve got to be sure that what you’re using has been cleaned effectively or else you’re at risk.
It’s difficult to clean gym equipment because there can be plenty of hard to reach spots on things like kettlebells and because so many people can use the equipment one after another in a short period.
You could think about how many surfaces and things you touch in the gym during your session. And how many times do you touch your face to wipe the moisture away or fix your hair or glasses or headphones?
Is it Safe to Exercise at All Then?
It’s safe to exercise in your own home and outdoors so long as you take care. Only exercise alone or with others in your household and be mindful of other people especially if you’re cycling or running. If you touch a crossing button or open a door, then remember to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as soon as you can afterwards and don’t touch your face until you do.
You could also set up a gym in your own home. And you never know, you could end up converting to the at-home workout experience once lockdown has lifted.
You’d still need to be careful about hygiene. Cleaning your home gym equipment is simple and straightforward but during a pandemic, your kit must be disinfected properly to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus via surfaces either to yourself or other people in your household.
And exercise isn’t just important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Keeping fit can also help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Exercise is so important in supporting mental health during lockdown that we’d encourage everyone to find a way to get moving.
When will UK Gyms Open Up Again?
It’s difficult to say right now.
There’s some suggestion that gyms might not be open again until October. The Guardian writes that trade industry body UK Active has offered some instruction as to what gyms can do when given the go-ahead to open.
They’re including the advice to give people a three-meter square space to workout in, to cap the number of members inside at one time and to keeping a one-machine gap between people exercising. Also, there have to be reassurances of stringent cleaning regimes and hygiene measures.
It’s a case of understanding that whilst exercise is very good for us right now, the gym environment itself probably isn’t.
Sweat won’t give you COVID-19 but it is corrosive and that’s a problem if you’re wearing headphones. Add a pair of moisture-proof headphone covers to the cushions to prevent sweat damage.