Health

Is It Safe to Go Back to Indoor Group Exercise Class at the Gym?

Not every facility will have a carbon dioxide monitor, but it’s worth asking your facility if they have one in the group fitness room and whether you can check it. If the carbon dioxide levels are below 600 parts per million (the closer to 500 the better), it’s a sign that the room ventilation is adequate for exercise. If the numbers start to increase, ask to open a window or door — or leave the class. When Dr. Marr was attending an indoor swimming pool, she noticed ventilation levels in the room were poor, so she left.

The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, an industry group, has an initiative called the IHRSA Active & Safe Commitment to follow industry best practices to provide a safe environment. Facilities that sign the pledge promise to adhere to physical distancing and mitigation measures, safety protocols and contact tracing.

The IHRSA urges the gym to have a list of protocols on its website and at the facility. At the bare minimum, protocols should include ventilation and fresh air exchange, capacity limits, distancing protocols and a clear mask policy. “I would specifically ask about ventilation practices, if mask wearing at all times is mandatory, and if classes and equipment were to be spaced out to allow for appropriate social distancing,” said Cedric Bryant, president and chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise.

Your risk for contracting coronavirus or developing serious illness drops dramatically if you’ve been vaccinated, but people who are vaccinated are still advised to take the same precautions as everyone else in public settings. And in most states, the people most likely to go to gyms or instruct a fitness class are younger and healthier, and therefore less likely to be among the first groups to be vaccinated. According to the IHRSA, 73 percent of gym and fitness class participants are 55 and younger.

While everyone should wash their hands and wipe down gym equipment, patrons should not judge a gym solely on how often it promises to clean and sanitize an area. “We should still do what we did before, which is wipe down your machine when you’re done,” said Dr. Marr. “Maintaining a normal level of cleaning is appropriate. But any extra time and effort a gym has, put it toward cleaning the air.”

Dr. Marr notes that proper ventilation, physical distancing and class size limits will have the biggest impact on your safety. She recently posted on Twitter that ventilation is so important, she even had a nightmare about it.

“I had my first Covid-19 related nightmare (that I remember),” Dr. Marr’s tweet read. “I finished a hard, group workout in a gym. I looked around and panicked because I saw that all the doors were closed.”

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