It figures, right? You finally got into a good routine at the gym, and BAM – a pandemic! How can you balance your desire to keep yourself and your loved ones Coronavirus-free without backtracking on the progress you’ve made with your fitness?
Not to worry – you’ve got plenty of options! Let’s take a look at what you can do to make these strange times more normal, at least in terms of things you can control like your exercise routine.
Are gyms safe?
First off, is it even OK to go to the gym? Depending on where you live, you might not have the option, as many gyms have closed until further notice. If your gym is still open, how can you decide if it’s safe to get your workout in?
The whole idea behind gyms (and lots of other businesses) closing comes down to social distancing. If you haven’t heard this fun buzzword yet, here’s a primer:
- Coronavirus is spread by droplet transmission, which means it can be passed from person to person in droplets released during sneezing and coughing (1).
- Coronavirus cannot be spread by sweat, only respiratory droplets (2). Of course, you’ll want to spray and wipe your sweat off equipment and mats as usual just to be a good gym-goer!
- While it can’t be spread by sweat, other types of coronaviruses can survive on surfaces for as long as 9 days, and it is believed that COVID-19 can do the same. This means that if an infected person coughs into their hands, gets on the elliptical machine, and doesn’t clean and disinfect the handlebars, you may pick up coronavirus by touching those same handlebars.
- For this reason, gyms that are still remaining open are being extra-diligent about their cleaning protocols. For example, Equinox gyms are disinfecting all surfaces 3 times a day and eliminating contact between people (such as yoga adjustments).
- The virus may also be spread through close contact with infected people, so a safe “social” distance of 6 feet has been recommended by the CDC to minimize contracting coronavirus from people nearby.
So, can I go to the gym during the coronavirus pandemic?
Unless you live in an area where coronavirus infections are widespread right now (in which case your gym is probably closed anyway!), you have a good chance of not picking it up at the gym. With all the extra cleaning, sanitizing, and social distancing precautions, the gym is no more “germy” than the grocery store or other businesses.
That said, it doesn’t hurt to be extra-cautious when it comes to your health. Here are a few things you can do to lower your risk of becoming infected with coronavirus at the gym:
- If you don’t know your gym’s cleaning policy, ask them! Any reputable gym will be taking cleanliness seriously right now, and they’ll be more than willing to explain these extra precautions to you.
- Bring your own sanitizing wipes to the gym! The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests looking for wipes or sanitizer that are at least 60 to 70% alcohol (1).
- If you’re feeling sick (or someone in your household is sick), just stay home!
- If you need to cough or sneeze during your workout (even you, spring allergy sufferers!), try to do it into your elbow or use a tissue if possible. Throw any used tissues into the trash as soon as possible, then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
- Bring your own water bottle and don’t share it with anyone.
- Towels should be OK to use if you need them, as they should be washed after every use (3). If you’re not comfortable using a gym towel, bring your own from home!
- Need your yoga fix? Bring your own mat.
- Remember to observe a social distance of 6 feet as much as possible. That’s right, finally an excuse to choose a treadmill that’s nowhere near anyone!
Can exercise boost your immune system?
Everyone is looking to improve their immune function right now in hopes of warding off coronavirus. While there are many avenues to do this, we recommend exercise!
That’s right – exercise can actually help to boost your immune system! Here’s how it works:
- During exercise (and for a brief period of time afterward), your body temperature increases slightly (3). This small change in temperature can help to prevent infections, as many viruses and bacteria can only survive and replicate within a very narrow temperature range.
- Exercise can also alter your white blood cells and antibodies to circulate throughout your body faster, which means a quicker immune response to any potential illness and possible prevention of infection (3, 5).
- Stress hormone release is slowed by exercise, and higher circulating levels of stress hormones are associated with illness (3).
How can you exercise at home?
If going to the gym isn’t an option or you don’t feel comfortable going there, not to worry! Your fitness doesn’t need to take a hit just because of coronavirus. So, how can you get your workout in at home?
If you’ve got a home gym, this part is easy! Of course, this is a bit out of most people’s budget, so if you’re not one of the lucky few, what options do you have for exercise at home?
Have no fear, it’s 2020, and a temporary layoff from the gym isn’t the end of the world! Here are a few tried-and-true home workout options with a bit of something for everyone!
- Lace up your running shoes and get outside for a jog! Unless you live somewhere that has you strictly quarantined indoors, it’s perfectly OK to get out and enjoy some fresh air. Just make sure to limit your contact with others as much as possible and obey a social distance of 6 feet or more if you meet anyone along the way!
- Got a jump rope in storage somewhere? Grab it and get jumping! Jump roping is fun, easy cardio.
- Turn on the music and dance!
- Who doesn’t have a workout DVD collecting dust somewhere? Pop your favorite in the DVD player and start sweating to the oldies, getting your walk on, or doing some kickboxing!
- Break out your Wii Fit or Nintendo Ring Fit. It’ll be so much fun that you won’t even realize you’re exercising!
Many gyms are streaming live workouts online for FREE! Here are a few to check out (6):
- Planet Fitness – Head to their Facebook page at 7pm ET daily for a workout! You don’t even need to be a PF member.
- Blink Fitness – Workouts, tips, and Q&A each morning on their Facebook at 8am ET.
- Gold’s Gym – Check out their app for hundreds of video and audio workouts free until the end of May!
- Peloton – Nope, you don’t even need the fancy bike (although wouldn’t we all love one?)! Just download the Peloton app and enjoy free workouts for the next month and a half.
- OrangeTheory – A daily 30-minute video will be posted on their website that only requires you to use your own body weight and common household objects!
Other gym streams and apps to consider are CrossFit, Crunch Fitness, 305 Fitness, Fitness Blender, Daily Burn, Blogilates, Aaptiv, Barry’s Bootcamp, CorePower Yoga, Brookland’s Bluebird Sky Yoga, Yoga Heights, Down Dog, and Yoga Del Sol! Some of these may require memberships or app fees. Of course, you can always peruse YouTube for free workout videos!
You can also set up your own DIY circuit training routine! That’s right, you can get a full-body workout in the comfort of your own home just using your own body weight and whatever you have around the house! You can adjust the specific exercises depending on your abilities (or even add some others), it’s totally up to you! We recommend running through this circuit 3 times:
- 30 jumping jacks
- 20 squats
- 15-second plank
- Jog in place for 20 seconds
- 10 push ups
- 10 dumbbell rows on each side (use hand weights, a water bottle, or whatever you’ve got to work with!)
So, as you can see – even if you’re worried about heading to the gym right now, you’ve still got plenty of coronavirus-free workout options. Get moving!
- How Coronavirus Spreads, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Gyms and Coronavirus: What are the risks?, Forbes India
- Excersise and Immunity, Medline Plus
- NBS Sports Chicago