Many gyms allow people to take off their masks during workouts, as if the coronavirus will politely refrain from infecting others during exercise. It won’t, of course. Even if it’s legal to exercise maskless where you are, that doesn’t make it a good idea.
The CDC recently highlighted a few cases of super-spreader events at gyms. In a gym in Chicago, 81 people were exposed to the coronavirus during classes and 55 came down with symptoms. The gym spaced people six feet apart, required masks upon arrival, and used temperature checks and symptom screening to attempt to exclude anybody who was sick.
But, as we should all know by now, you can be contagious for a day or so before your symptoms begin. So a person can show up for class, having no idea that they’re sick, and then take their exercise class with no mask on. The CDC report also found that people sometimes showed up to class while they were awaiting test results. Unsurprisingly, this all adds up to a great way to spread the virus.
We’ve seen this before. Remember the Canadian cycling studio that followed all the rules, including how the rules allowed maskless classes? Or the outbreak in Hawaii gyms where masks were not required?
A room full of people breathing heavy, without masks or adequate ventilation, is a risky place to be during a coronavirus pandemic. To those who complain that it’s annoying or even impossible to exercise with a mask on, I say, if you can’t do it with a mask on, you shouldn’t be doing it indoors around other people.
The CDC report on the Chicago gym has this to say about making exercise safer, emphasis mine:
To reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission in fitness facilities, attendees should wear a mask, including during high-intensity activities when ≥6 ft apart. In addition, facilities should enforce physical distancing, improve ventilation, and encourage attendees to isolate after symptom onset or receiving a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result and to quarantine after a potential exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and while awaiting test results. Exercising outdoors or virtually could further reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk.
If your gym isn’t requiring others to wear masks, it’s safest to simply not go. If you choose to take the risk and attend anyway, consider avoiding cardio classes where everybody is breathing heavy, and minimise the amount of time you spend in the building.
We also have a roundup here of home workout ideas. Watch a workout video! Use a group fitness app! Get some dumbbells or resistance bands! Cancel your membership and invest in a whole home gym! Head outside and go for a run! And if you’ve already tried all of that, we have some ideas on what to do when you’re bored of your home workout.