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How Safe Is It To Go Back To The Gym?

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(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Jason Nichols, facilities operation manager, disinfects equipment at the Life Time Biltmore as it opens for business after being closed due to the coronavirus Monday, May 18, 2020, in Phoenix.

Stress-eating. Netflix-bingeing. Wine-chugging. 

Stay-at-home orders have given us an excuse to indulge in the name of self-care. And if the lines outside Las Vegas Athletic Club are any indication, people are ready to get rid of their Quarantine 15. 

But exactly how safe is it to go back to the gym? 

It’s not exactly a place where people can wear masks comfortably. On the other hand, gyms are promising frequent disinfecting and other practices that aim to keep their members healthy. 

“The equipment is definitely spread out and then we are practicing social distancing throughout the gym,” said Delilah Banks, a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness.

She said during the lockdown employees thoroughly cleaned the equipment, and now that they're open again they are cleaning the gym during off-hours.

They're also taking temperatures at the door and only allowing gym members to work out there. They've set up a sanitizing station and are offering masks to members that don't have one but would like one.

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“It’s pretty tough to wear masks when you exercise,” Banks admitted.

Brian Labus is an assistant professor at UNLV's School of Public Health. He agreed that wearing a mask during vigorous exercise is tough.
 

“You’re talking about two things that are in direct conflict: wearing a mask to protect other people around you, and also doing an activity that really is difficult when you’re wearing that mask,” he said.

But he also pointed out that masks are only one part of the puzzle when it comes to protecting yourself and others from the virus. Other measures like social distancing and proper sanitization can also help.

Banks also said her gym upgraded its ventilation system, putting in a UV light to sanitize the air when it circulates.

Labus said UV light can't hurt, but it's unlikely that it will kill the coronavirus because the virus is mostly spread through large droplets that don't even make it to the ventilation system. “This isn’t a disease that seems to hang around in the air for a very long time.”

Labus also said that the closer people are to each other, the more likely they are to spread the disease, which is why social distancing is vital. Six feet is the recommended distance but he said that doesn't mean droplets can't go further than that.

It is common courtesy to wipe down equipment and weights after using them at a gym. Banks said members should be doing that.

"Generally, if we see someone not doing it, we’ll go and wipe it down after, and we have wipes all over the gym.”

Labus said current research shows the virus is not transmitted through sweat. “It’s really got to come out of your mouth or nose before it’s going to spread to someone,” he said.

Labus also said that for those deciding whether to go back to the gym or just keep up their in-home workout routines, it is really a matter of each individual's personal risk.

“We’re still telling people that are high risk for coronavirus not to go out at all, and for those people, the guidance is absolutely don’t go to the gym. But if you’re younger and healthier, you have to make decisions about how much risk you’re willing to accept in your life and is the payoff worth it?” he said.

For example, a younger person who needs the gym to feel mentally and physically fit and can confidently stay socially distanced returning might be okay, but for someone who is older with several underlying health conditions, the risk is too great.

Guests

Brian Labus, assistant professor, UNLV School of Public Health; Delilah Banks, personal trainer, Anytime Fitness

 

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