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Heading back to the gym? Here’s how to do it safely.

Heading back to the gym? Here’s how to do it safely.

As California takes gradual steps to re-open, many counties are loosening restrictions, allowing for fitness centers and gyms to cautiously open their doors.  You may be wondering, is it even safe to re-enter the gym? And if I choose to go, is there anything else I can do to protect myself?

Fitness centers and gyms have had to make specific changes mandated by state health officials in an effort to protect public health.

 

Whether you feel comfortable going back or are still trying to decide, here are some things to consider:

  • The gym should be set up for adequate social distancing. Many gyms have implemented reservation systems online to control the number of people in the facility at one time – this will allow you to schedule your “workout appointment” in advance.
  • Expect floor plans to be altered, which will include movement of cardio, strength training and exercise machines to accommodate the 6 feet of mandated social distancing.
  • Understand that they may periodically close throughout the day to sanitize equipment.
  • See if they are requiring temperature checks upon entry to the facility.
  • Understand if they have mandated use of face coverings throughout the facility.
  • Minimize attendance or completely eliminate group classes.
  • Expect closure of community amenities such as locker facilities.

 

Despite all these precautions, you may still find yourself asking, what else can I do to protect myself? According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most effective ways for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 is to use face coverings, maintain the minimum 6 feet of social distancing, and wash your hands.

 

Here are a few tips to be mindful of when you go back to the gym:

  • Wear a face covering. This is the single most important precaution you can take to protect yourself and others. To wear a mask properly, it must cover your face from the top of your nose to the bottom of your chin. Disposable procedure masks provide the best protection and air flow for breathing comfortably.
  • Practice breathing more deeply during cardiorespiratory activity, and if you need, step outside periodically to get some fresh air.
  • Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer often.
  • Disinfect equipment with sprays or wipes before and after use to protect yourself and others.
  • Be respectful of others and give each other space. If somebody is using your favorite machine, take a break, drink some water, and come back when they are done.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable for any reason, it’s okay to leave. It’s important to feel safe and comfortable in this new environment. Feel free to ask gym staff members questions, such as what their cleaning policies are, how they managing member traffic, and how they enforce the use of face coverings. Knowing this information may help you feel more at ease.
  • Most importantly, if you have any symptoms, stay home. Taking a day off exercise or exercising lightly at home may be best for your health, and for the health of others.

Written by Kevin Lane, MA, ACSM-CEP, CMP, Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Cate Collings MD, MS FACC DipABLM, Director of El Camino Health's Lifestyle Medicine Program. Click here for more information on Lifestyle Medicine, including available classes, locations and program tracks.

 

This article first appeared in the April 2021 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.

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