Coronavirus and the gym: should we be wary of working out?

Be mindful of equipment – high-contact surfaces such as barbells can pose a problem

If you’re in a community where there have been cases of the coronavirus, you should be cautious about going to the gym. Photograph: Getty Images/Hemera

If you’re in a community where there have been cases of the coronavirus, you should be cautious about going to the gym. Photograph: Getty Images/Hemera

 

It’s not the kind of thing you want to think about while you’re in child’s pose in yoga class, when your nose is close to the mat, but after hearing how you should stop touching your face to guard against the coronavirus, you might wonder: what are the risks of transmission while working out at a gym?

Mindful of equipment

The spread of the coronavirus could make even the most ardent gym rats stress out about picking up barbells. There’s a lower risk of picking up the coronavirus at a gym or health club than at a church service, for example, said Dr David Thomas, a professor of medicine and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

But if you’re in a community where there have been cases of the coronavirus, “that’s, perhaps, a time to be more cautious with all types of exposures, including a gym,” said Dr Thomas. Sweat cannot transmit the virus but high-contact surfaces, such as barbells, can pose a problem, he said.

Scientists are still figuring out how the virus exactly spreads but have provided some guidance on how it seems to be transmitted. A study of other coronaviruses found they remained on metal, glass and plastic for two hours to nine days. Certain objects, like handles and doorknobs, are “disproportionally affected by hands, and those are the surfaces most likely to have viruses for that reason,” Dr Thomas said.

Protect yourself

Do you know what’s in those nondescript spray bottle at gyms that you’re supposed to use to wipe down your machine, mat and equipment? If you’re not sure, ask staff members what’s in the bottle or take your own wipes to the gym. “I’ll probably bring my own wipes,” Dr Thomas said of his own planned gym trip. “I’ll know that they’re the right wipes and they have the right concentration of alcohol.”

Diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70 per cent alcohol and several common household disinfectants should be effective against the coronavirus, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to avoiding frequently handled machines and equipment, it’s recommended, as always, that you wash your hands often and don’t touch your face.

And if you’re feeling sick, stay home.

“This is mostly about how you keep from getting sick at a gym, but please don’t go to the gym if you feel sick,” Dr Thomas said. “Don’t give it to other people.”

– The New York Times

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