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Gyms and Coronavirus: What Are the Risks?


 

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his article is part of the developing Coronavirus coverage, and may be outdated. Go here for the latest.

It’s not the kind of thing you want to think about while you’re in child’s pose in yoga class, when your nose is close to the mat, but after hearing how you should stop touching your face to guard against the coronavirus, you might wonder: What are the risks of transmission while working out at a gym?

The spread of the coronavirus could make even the most ardent gym rats stress out about picking up barbells.

There’s a lower risk of picking up the coronavirus at a gym or health club than at a church service, for example, said Dr. David Thomas, a professor of medicine and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. By comparison, church services may include shaking hands and being closer to people.

But if you’re in a community where there have been cases of the coronavirus, “that’s, perhaps, a time to be more cautious with all types of exposures, including a gym,” Dr. Thomas said.

Sweat cannot transmit the virus but high-contact surfaces, such as barbells, can pose a problem, he said.

Scientists are still figuring out how the virus exactly spreads but have provided guidance on how it seems to be transmitted. A study of other coronaviruses found they remained on metal, glass and plastic for up to nine days.

Objects like handles and doorknobs are “disproportionally affected by hands, and those are the surfaces most likely to have viruses for that reason,” Dr. Thomas said.

The owner of a yoga studio in Washington State, where several coronavirus patients have died, according to The Yoga Journal, “says she’s seen a direct impact from all the hysteria in the area on both attendance and business.”

Equinox, the luxury fitness club brand, has sent notices to members, reassuring them that additional steps are being taken during the peak flu season and as concerns about the coronavirus grow.

Those include using a hospital-grade solution to disinfect all club areas three times a day, reminding people to stay home if they are sick and asking instructors to eliminate skin-to-skin contact, like hands-on adjustments during yoga, a spokeswoman said.

Brian Cooper, chief executive of YogaWorks, sent an email to the company’s clients, telling them that it was stepping up its cleaning processes “to keep our facilities a safe and welcoming environment for all students and staff.”

David Carney, president of Orangetheory Fitness, listed precautions in an email on Thursday. “Wipe down your equipment after every block, and don’t hesitate to request a new wipe whenever you need to,” he wrote.

Do you know what’s in those nondescript spray bottles at gyms that you’re supposed to use to wipe down your machine, mat and equipment?

If you’re not sure, ask staff members or carry your own cleaning supplies.

“I’ll probably bring my own wipes,” Dr. Thomas said on Saturday of his gym trip planned for later that day. “I’ll know that they’re the right wipes and they have the right concentration of alcohol.”

Diluted solutions of household bleach, alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol and several common household disinfectants should be effective against the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

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