Working out is often a great way to de-stress at the end of the day and a good way to keep your immune system in tip-top shape.
But fears of contracting the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, have many people on edge and avoiding places where they could contract the disease or spread the virus to other people.
On that point, the gym is a place where people can easily pick up other people’s germs.
That’s of particular concern because the new coronavirus causes respiratory illness that can spread by touching surfaces a person with the virus has touched or even via airborne droplets when a person sneezes or coughs.
Dr. Nancy MessonnierTrusted Source, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned peopleTrusted Source Mar. 10 to take basic precautions about limiting their exposure to the virus.
“Take everyday precautions like avoiding close contact with people who are sick, cleaning your hands often, and to the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places,” Messonnier said. “Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.”
The World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source says some coronaviruses can linger on surfaces “for a few hours or up to several days,” which is part of the reason they recommend washing your hands often with soap and water or using hand sanitizer.
What fitness centers are doing
Gyms are often crowded places where many of the surfaces — from free weights to the controls on a treadmill — are touched a lot.
Simply wiping sweat off with a towel isn’t enough to stop the coronavirus and other bugs from spreading.
While a handful of Twitter users report the novel coronavirus hasn’t changed their gym habits, many fitness centers have reached out to their members to tell them the extra preventive steps they’re taking.
That includes closing down.
A case in point is the San Mateo Athletic Club at the College of San Mateo in California.
Earlier this week, the fitness center told its members that it’s following guidelines set by the health department in San Mateo County.
“We have continued to educate the staff members on good hygiene habits: use of gloves and proper disposal, proper cleaning procedures, and use of Clorox wipes at each workstation,” the email read. “These are habits we have practiced for 10 years.”
On Thursday, the San Mateo gym announced it’s temporarily closing.
Nationwide, chains have also been reassuring its members that its spaces are clean and safe.
Planet Fitness says it has “extensive cleanliness policies and procedures in place.”
“Team members conduct regular and thorough cleaning of all equipment, surfaces, and areas of the club and gym floor using disinfectant cleaning supplies,” McCall Gosselin, Planet Fitness’ spokeswoman, told Healthline. “In addition, they regularly complete overnight cleaning of the facility.”
Anytime Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness, two other major national gym chains, didn’t have any coronavirus warnings on their websites, nor did they respond to requests for comment.
Simon Hansen, an experienced athlete, coach, and sports blogger of Best Sports Lounge, said he’s visited the gym less frequently since the COVID-19 outbreak, although he knows people with strong immune systems are less likely to be affected.
“I think that it’s a necessary precaution to take especially since we might unknowingly harm the immunocompromised,” Hansen told Healthline. “However, this doesn’t mean that I’ve removed exercise from my daily routine.”
Instead, he works out at home.
Exercising at home
If you’re staying at home, you still probably want to continue your workout routine.
Besides the health benefits, it’s also good to stay active to ward off going stir crazy from being cooped up for an extended period of time.
Dr. David Nazarian, who’s board certified in internal medicine and practices in Beverly Hills, said that because the new coronavirus is rapidly spreading, it’s important to take standard precautions to protect yourself.
“Exercise is important for overall healthy well-being, but it is vital to protect yourself from airborne disease, especially new ones such as the coronavirus where effective treatment is still being studied,” he told Healthline.
“If avoiding places that are high risk for transmission of airborne diseases is necessary, there can be alternative options such as working out at home,” he added.
Alexandra Ellis, creator of AE Wellness and host of The Body Nerd Show, said if you’re avoiding the gym for fear of getting sick, there’s a lot you can do at home that requires no equipment.
“Focus on the basics such as planks, pushups, squats, leg lifts, or bicycles and burpees for an easy workout that will build strength and get your heart rate up. My favorite way to build a workout is to do 4 rounds of 5 exercises for 45 seconds of work, followed by 15 seconds of rest,” Ellis told Healthline.
“Choose exercises that target different areas of your body and you’ll have a full-body workout in less than 20 minutes,” she said.
For people looking for more guidance during their home exercise, there are plenty of tutorials available online, whether on YouTube or other portals.
Some people are even responding to COVID-19 and subsequent distancing and quarantine measures.
One such example is the online yoga platform EkhartYoga, which is offering free gentle yoga and meditation classes online to people during the outbreak to help counteract the escalation of stress and anxiety that comes with it.
“We can only begin to imagine the stress of being in isolation,” Esther Ekhart, the platform owner and a yoga teacher, said in a statement to Healthline. “While, thankfully, the majority of us aren’t in physical danger, we can’t fail to escape the news, which in itself can cause worry and anxiety.”