Here we take a walk through questions of whether or not we should even bother hitting the gym and how we would best be exercising to avoid infection
By Jaymes Shrimski | Photo by Arthur Edelman/Unsplash
I admit to being an optimist in this time of COVID-19. This doesn’t deter me from exercising judgment nor does it keep me from using excessive amounts of soap. But I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not I should continue my efforts at the gym. Realizing that I wasn’t alone in this limbo, I decided to search for an answer.
How bad is the COVID-19 outbreak?
As of Mar. 9, there were 109,577 confirmed cases of the virus according to the World Health Organization‘s latest situation report and with over 64,000 individuals to have recovered so far based on the daily count maintained by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University. That said, is it still okay for me to go to the gym and exercise?
Exercise may boost immunity
As a bit of a stubborn runner, many have pointed out that running too much will leave me more susceptible to sickness. But in a recent study, scientists found that “fit, exercise-trained mice that were injected with germs immediately after a strenuous run fought off infection better than sedentary animals.”
This is true as long as you don’t bust out a new move. Jeffry Woods, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign explains that “it is fair to say that a large increase in exercise intensity and/or duration, especially in people new to exercise, might have transient negative effects on the immune system.”
So while propping on the treadmill for your usual jog will give you the same benefits the mice above gained, a sudden shift into powerlifting isn’t advisable. So what can the average gym-goer do to avoid contracting the virus?
1. Wear gloves, or do whatever you can to not touch your face
Aubree Gordon, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health suggests wearing cloth gloves during workouts. You contract the virus by way of mucous membranes—the eyes, nose, or mouth. In short, the gloves aren’t on your hands to protect your skin from somehow absorbing the virus (this isn’t possible). Rather, they’re there to remind you that you’re at the gym to lift weights—not to touch your face.
2. Wipe down gym equipment with disinfectant
Though the jury is out on exactly how long the virus can survive on various surfaces, research currently suggests it can survive on surfaces from a few hours to a few days. With the amount of time spent handling them, it wouldn’t come as a shock to learn that dumbbells, kettlebells, and pull-up bars are ripe surfaces for the virus to sit. After all, gym equipment are believed to be the dirtiest surfaces in fitness facilities. Bringing alcohol to clean and polish whatever you use before and after is a bright idea.
3. Stay away from people
Virologist Jonathan Ball comments that “the chances of somebody turning up to the gym feeling unwell [aren’t] high.” Though I suppose that’s true, avoiding congested gyms might be the very last weapon in your arsenal to secure yourself from contracting the virus. Surely, and I am completely guilty of this, you occasionally encounter the stubborn slightly sick gym-rat soothing their daily yearning for a pump. Avoiding the congested periods right after work and right before it (depending of course on the location of the gym) stunts your chances of encountering this potentially viral individual. In addition, you might want to skip the high-fives, handshakes and hugs after nailing that deadlift.
4. Don’t head to the gym if you aren’t feeling well
Adhering to viral infection control protocol is our responsibility. Though it’s easy to fall into the tangle of “I’m invincible” or “surely, I don’t have it,” unwinding ourselves into a humble state of “let’s sit this one out” will do us the good of helping us get better while avoiding contaminating others.
All in all, I remain at the starting line, nonetheless optimistic, and waiting for the gun to go off. Underscoring a responsibility to my fellow athlete (all of us, that is), I have washed my hands, wiped the equipment I left at the gym, and have completely given up touching my face. I’m not about to begin a massively impactful fitness regime, but I’m going to keep up what I’m doing, albeit with the above four principles in mind.
And yes, I’ll be running alone.
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