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When Is It Safe to Go Back to the Gym?

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Michael  W. Smith, MD - Blogs
By Michael W. Smith, MDBoard-certified internistMay 12, 2020

If you enjoy a good gym workout, you’re probably hankering to get back to it – and in some states, it’s now possible. But with the virus swirling around, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Whether you hit the gym or not is a personal decision. Ask your doctor if you’re not sure what’s best for you. If you’re at high risk, such as over the age of 65 or have a high-risk medical condition like lung or heart disease, diabetes, or a weakened immune system, consider whether the benefits of the gym are worth the higher risk of being in close proximity to others. (Considering the importance of social distancing, indoor group fitness classes aren’t your safest bet at this point. If group workouts are your thing, stick to classes held outdoors or online for now.)

If you decide it’s time, here’s what you need to know to stay as safe as possible.

Have a conversation with the gym. Ask what steps they’re taking to keep you safe. Social distancing is still a must. Ensure they’re not letting people use cardio machines that are right next to each other. There should be at least 6 feet between you and your any treadmill buddy.

Ask the gym about their disinfecting practices. How often do they disinfect the machines, dumbbells etc? What instructions are they giving gym goers to help decrease spread of the virus? Does it sound like they’re thoroughly invested in your safety and the safety of their staff? If not, find another gym or stay home.

The staff at the gym can’t totally protect you. Personal responsibility is big here. It’s up to you to stay away from others. Don’t use a machine next to someone else – remember, 6 feet at a minimum. If your gym is too crowded to stay at least 6 feet away, find another gym, or at a minimum, wear a cloth mask. In fact, a cloth mask is a good idea all the time as it adds another layer of protection for you and others. While it might be tough when huffing and puffing in an intense workout, wear one any time you can stand it.

As for equipment, cover up! Use a towel to put a barrier between you and any equipment. Disinfect machines and weights with a clean cloth or wipe each time you use them – before and after.

Should you wear rubber gloves? The virus does not infect you through your skin. The virus can also stick to those gloves just as it can stick to your fingers. If gloves remind you not to touch your face, then OK. But don’t let them give you a false sense of security because otherwise they offer no protection.

And remember, don’t touch your face! The main way the virus spreads is directly from person to person from someone close by. But the other way is when someone breathes, sneezes or coughs the virus onto a surface, you come along and touch that surface, then touch your face, and the virus gains entry through your nose, mouth or eyes.

And lastly, when you’re done with your workout, wash your hands! Wash up in the gym bathroom, use a paper towel to turn off all faucets and open all doors until you’re out of the gym. Toss it in the trash.

Then, give yourself a pat on the back for moving forward in your health with exercise.

 

 

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About the Author
Michael W. Smith, MD

Michael Smith, MD, CPT, is a board-certified internal medicine doctor and WebMD’s Chief Medical Editor. He is also an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer with a passion for helping people live a healthy, active lifestyle. He appears regularly as an expert on national and local broadcast media.

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