Tips for a Safer Return to the Gym

Woman cleaning gym equipment

This week, Governor Jared Polis gave Colorado gym owners the authority to reopen under new guidance and capacity restrictions. The rules call for gym members to stay six feet apart, and the facility can only operate at 25% capacity or 50 people per room – whichever number is less.

Gym-goers may wonder, is limited capacity enough to keep Coloradoans safe? Or are there other measures we should take to guard against the coronavirus? Centura Health's infectious disease expert Amber Noon, MD, says playing it safe includes asking the right questions and taking personal precautions. 

Before returning to your neighborhood recreation center or private gym, Dr. Noon advises reviewing the organization's website or having a conversation with the owner if details aren't readily available online. The facility’s cleaning schedule and policies are most important, Dr. Noon suggests. "You want to know what products they're using and how often they clean. And a biggie is how long they're letting cleaning products sit on a surface before wiping it off – chemicals typically take up to 10 minutes to do an effective job."

Cleaning solutions capable of killing coronavirus must have anti-bacterial/anti-viral properties, and you can always verify that products are appropriate – a complete list of EPA approved cleaning products is available online. Dr. Noon adds, "To be really safe, bring your own bottle of spray and clean machines yourself before use."

While at the gym, it's also a good idea to use hand sanitizer frequently, after each piece of equipment you touch and new location of the facility you visit. Dr. Noon says, "Those who want to add another level of protection should bring their own small bottle. There is a potential to pick up the virus off a community hand sanitizer station." Gym-goers should also bring their own equipment; basketball, towel, water bottle, yoga mat, etc. Personal equipment should always be adequately cleaned and sanitized before bringing back into your home.  

Finally, the use of masks while exercising can be a confusing topic, but Dr. Noon says the formula is simple: "Wearing a mask while participating in aerobics exercise isn't healthy. I would, however, wear a mask when I'm not active and insist that gym staff do the same." Especially since masks aren't always practical, social distancing at the gym is of critical importance. You should investigate what strategies your gym has in place – for example, is equipment really six feet apart? "And better yet, pick a time to visit the gym where you can leave a machine or two in between you and the next person," Dr. Noon adds. 

Bottom line, most Coloradoans are probably safe at the gym currently, especially when taking the above precautions, but there is risk. Dr. Noon says you must make individualized choices based on your personal life and risk group, “And the safest way to get your exercise currently remains outdoors or at home.”