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During these unprecedented times, exercise is one of the most important ways to relieve stress and build our immune system. Exercise is scientifically proven to help make our immune system stronger and fight viruses such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are beginning to get tired of relying on virtual workout classes and YouTube videos to fill their gym void. If you are brave enough to enter back into the gym, you will enjoy some perks such as more space, clean equipment, and a peace of mind until everyone else becomes sick of their online cardio classes. There are many precautions and safety standards that you and gyms can take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Below are listed ten steps that gyms and gym members can take to fight the virus and still enjoy exercising at the gym.
Wear a Mask
Protect yourself from the grunters and heavy breathers! The main way COVID-19 spreads is through person to person respiratory droplets when people sneeze, talk, or cough. Wearing a simple cloth mask can reduce the transmission of viruses by at least 85% to 95%. Wearing a mask while exercising can be annoying and uncomfortable but many fitness clothing brands such as Reebok and Under Armor have designed breathable masks that are perfect for the gym. Under Armor’s UA SportsMask ($30, https://www.underarmour.com/) is built with three layers that meets World Health Organization requirements. The mask sits comfortably on face and lips, has an adjustable nose bridge, and inner lining with performance fabric to keep you cool during your sweat-sesh.
Bring your own equipment
Bring your own water bottle, towel, fitness mat, and simple equipment such as free weights and resistance bands. This is a simple step to avoid touching equipment and surfaces that are being touched by other members. Every time you touch a surface or common equipment, someone else has probably touched it as well. It is possible that you could potentially catch COVID-19 from the spread of infectious diseases on surfaces. Make it fun by bringing your favorite water bottle and fitness mat! Target and Amazon sell super cute gym accessories you can bring to have a great workout and be COVID safe.
To avoid touching the smooth and hard shared surfaces where COVID-19 droplets can survive for longer periods of time, wear gloves! Spectral Body’s Compression gloves ($26 https://spectralbody.com/) claim to kill viruses on all surfaces because of antimicrobial properties of copper that are woven into the fabric. KleenWraps (15$ https://www.kleenwraps.com/) is another glove form that could be used at the gym. These gloves have neoprene strips that have antimicrobial agents to help reduce the strength and transmission rate of pathogens that come into close contact with people. Remember that wearing gloves does not equal to cancelling out practicing good hand hygiene. Remember to sanitize regularly and practice good hand washing.
Capping capacity at 50%
Many gym spaces cannot simply hold maximum capacity and have social distance guidelines take place in the meantime. By having a limit on the number of gym goers, everyone can properly social distance and avoid having to come into close contact with others in common spaces or while exercising.
Domes and Shields
To prevent the spread of germs from members sweating, heavy breathing, and grunting; domes between workout spaces and shields placed between treadmills are great ways to prevent close contact between members. Consider popular areas in the workout pace or places in the faculty where it may be hard to social distance. Creating barriers between equipment can prevent the spread of the respiratory droplets and promote the safety precautions.
Step up sanitization
It is said that droplets can also land on surfaces and objects by touch. A person can get COVID-19 by touching the surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Although spreading through surfaces is not the main way the virus spreads, it is still a precaution to take seriously. Having disinfection wipes readily available for people to use after using equipment and hand sanitizer available for guests are great ways to sanitize the facility.
Have a plan
Create a health and safety plan with policies that oblige to COVID-19 protocols and precautions. Evaluate workplace scenarios and places where workers and members cannot properly social distance at least 6 feet from each other, patrons, and staff members. To avoid this use hierarchy of controls. It is important to follow CDC and state guidelines when considering reopening. Below are listed some areas to evaluate when considering reopening:
- Limit locker room access
- Close water stations and install no touch water bottle refill stations
- Close waiting areas
- Encourage employees to bring their own water bottles, equipment, towels, etc.
- Reduce class size, hold classes outside, or discontinue in person classes
- Removing shared equipment
Open in phases
Open back up the gym in phases according to CDC and state guidelines. Start with limited capacity and open back up to full capacity slowly. Begin with limited equipment and build in more equipment as restrictions are lifted. Create a plan of what to limit and open and create stages that follow that state’s regulations to keep safety precautions.
Signs and Reminders
Place signs and reminders at entrances and in strategic places to provide direction and instruction on social distancing, hand hygiene, mask wear, and cough/sneeze etiquette. The signs should be legible and accessible for people with disabilities, easy to understand, and be legible and accessible for people with disabilities. The signs should also include languages necessary for non-English speakers. Use images that account for language barriers and reinforce training for staff with signs as well.
Encourage employees and gym members to stay home if they don’t feel well. If an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 than follow procedures to prevent fellow employees or members from getting sick. Separate employees who report or develop COVID-19 symptoms at work from others and arrange private transportation to home. Employees should self-isolate and contact health care providers immediately.
- Perform enhanced disinfecting techniques after anyone is suspected or confirmed to have the virus. The cleaning staff should disinfect offices, workplace, common areas, bathrooms, equipment, and other items used by the sick person.
- People who test positive should immediately notify the employer their results. Sick employees should follow isolation and quarantine guidelines and seek care. They should not return until their quarantine is complete.
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