After four months away from the gym, you may be anxious to rid yourself of any extra pounds that have appeared while you sheltered in place. But, is it really safe to go back to the gym, even if they are partially open in Tennessee?
Sadly, the answer is no, especially if you are over 65 or have underlying health conditions. As a point of fact, the White House coronavirus task force recommends that “red zones,” like Nashville, where virus cases are surging, close gyms. This Mlive article, which ranks 36 activities by coronavirus risk level, gives going to the gym a risk level of 8. (In comparison, going to a bar or attending a large music concert are assigned risk levels of 9.)
Why is working out at a gym risky?
There are several reasons why exercising at a gym is a high-risk activity.
Number one: The activity takes place indoors. (According to the Mayo Clinic, the COVID-19 virus is primarily spread from person to person through respiratory droplets released into the air when talking, coughing, or sneezing. When indoors, you’re more likely to inhale these droplets from an infected person because you’re sharing more air than you do outdoors.)
Number two: People breathe more heavily when working out, which may spread infectious droplets further.
Number three: Social distancing is not easy to do at a gym.
Number four: It’s difficult to wear a mask while working out.
Number five: Members share equipment.
Even if gyms take precautions, like frequently wiping down equipment and increasing cleaning, the virus lingers in confined spaces, says an expert quoted in this How to Stay Safe When You Return to the Gym article.
So, how about swimming?
Swimming also puts you at risk for contracting the coronavirus, although it’s not as dangerous as going to the gym. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s actually no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through recreational water. The risk with swimming is that it’s a social activity, according to an expert cited in this ABC News article. Although swimming is not recommended, if you feel you must go for a swim, go at non-peak times and avoid change rooms.
Are there safe ways to keep fit?
Exercising at home is the safest way to keep in shape while COVID-19 is out of control. If you are comfortable using Zoom, find out if your fitness studio offers online exercise groups or one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer. Another way to keep motivated is to work out to an exercise DVD or YouTube video. (There are many options, including the Senior Fitness With Meredith channel.) An alternative is attending exercise classes in a park–if social distancing is a priority with the instructor, that is.
Walking, hiking, running and cycling are also low-risk activities if you avoid crowded sidewalks, trails, or running tracks. Other low-risk options are going camping, fishing, and kayaking. Boating can be okay too, as long as you boat with people in your own household and you socially distance while preparing to leave the shore.
When it comes to outdoor sports, your best choices are golf and tennis, as you can maintain physical distance. (Contact sports like basketball are a no-no!) The mLive article assigns golf a risk factor of 3, the same as for grocery shopping, while tennis gets a risk level of 1. (The Hartford HealthCare list gives tennis a 2.) When playing either game, make sure to wear a mask, take hand sanitizer with you, and don’t touch your face.
Although you may long to get back to your regular fitness routine, now, more than ever, you need to be creative and adopt caution as your new watchword.