What A Doctor Wants You To Know About Going To The Gym During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Gyms are full of sweat, heavy breathing, and lots of people touching the same equipment over and over again. Generally, you might not be too concerned about germs during your morning elliptical, but you’ve started to get a bit nervous about coronavirus exposure at the gym.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people are at low risk of catching coronavirus, and those who do may only present moderate symptoms (coughing, fever, and shortness of breath). However, just like during flu season, it doesn’t hurt to be a little extra vigilant. "Respiratory infections are often spread by touching a surface with the virus on it, and then touching our mouth or eyes," says Dr. Michael Richardson, MD, a family medicine doctor with One Medical. "Since we are often wiping sweat from our face while at the gym, be sure that you are [cleaning] the equipment you’re touching before using it."

In addition to spraying and wiping down your equipment both before and after use, you’ll also want to make sure you’re washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water; wash your water bottles daily; and if you’re going to wipe sweat from your face or mouth, make sure you use a clean towel. Orangetheory Fitness recommends replacing your post-circuit high fives with fist bumps, too.

If you’ve gone to a new workout studio in the last five years, chances are good that you’re receiving emails from them about what they’re doing to keep their spaces especially hygienic right now. Equinox sent its members a notice last week that they’re disinfecting club areas three times a day, up from at the end of every day. 305 Fitness sent its listserv a note to say they’ll "be extra flexible in returning class credits and waiving late cancellation/no-show fees" if you’re not feeling well, and recommends "booty bumps" over high fives. Y7 Studio, which offers infrared yoga, also advised notifying instructors if you’d prefer not to have hands-on adjustments during class.

You may be feeling fine physically, but still nervous about spending time at the gym. This might be especially true if you know someone who’s immunocompromised, or especially at risk of developing complications from COVID-19. It’s also valid if you don’t want to run the risk for yourself. In that case, Dr. Richardson suggests going for a run or working out at home using YouTube fitness videos.

Taking a break from the gym is also more than OK, especially if you’re not feeling well. Your body needs time to rest and recover. "It’s also incredibly considerate to other gym goers if you rest or switch to a home routine when you are sick," Dr. Richardson says. "You can feel good about getting a strong sweat in while also protecting the health of your fellow fit friends at the gym."


Dr. Michael Richardson, a family medicine doctor with One Medical

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here.

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