Avoiding nasty viruses this winter doesn’t mean you have to avoid your workouts, too. With a few simple precautions, you can keep yourself and your community healthy while you stay fit.
1. Choose a Safe Gym.Look for a facility that shares your standards for cleanliness, safety, and infection control. The rules vary from gym to gym. At minimum, your gym should be well ventilated and should enforce whatever local and federal regulations are in place.
2. Follow Best Practices for Disease Prevention.We all know the drill by now. Get vaccinated for both COVID-19 and the flu if you’re able. Keep your distance, wear a mask, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands often. If you’re using workout gloves or fabric masks, be sure to wash them after every workout. Be aware of currentCDC guidelines and any other rules in your area.
3. Sanitize Equipment.Most facilities provide sanitizer and wipes, but it’s a good idea to bring your own just in case—and use them often. “Imagine that eachdumbbell, barbell or machine that you touch, has been touched by countless others before you,” says Renee Exelbert, Ph.D., a New York-based Certified Personal Fitness Trainer. “Treat these objects as if they were human hands you are shaking and sanitize repeatedly.” When you’re done using a piece of equipment, sanitize it again.
4. Mask Up (if you can).Yes, it’s challenging to get a vigorous workout while wearing a mask, but it’s not impossible. If your regular mask leaves you gasping for air, consider a special mask designed for exercise. “You don’t want to risk being in an indoor crowded space where high body fluid transmission occurs, without protection,” says Dr. Exelbert. If you absolutely can’t work out in a mask, take extra care to protect yourself and others by following other precautions.
5. Don’t Follow the Crowds.If your schedule allows, visit the gym at a less popular time. Sometimes just ten or fifteen minutes can make a big difference in how crowded your gym is. It’s also a good idea to avoid jam-packed group classes in small rooms.
6. Get In, Work Out, Get Out.It’s fun to socialize at the gym, but the longer you’re inside, the greater the risk. “Skip the locker room and avoid high traffic breeding grounds where germs can fester, such as saunas, showers, bathroom stalls,” says Dr. Exelbert. “If possible, shower at home, and change out of your gym clothes quickly.”
7. Dial Down the Intensity.The harder you’re breathing, the more you’re at risk of inhaling or spreading infectious particles. This winter might be a good time to level down and go for a slightly less strenuous workout. Keep in mind that stretching and resistance training are just as important as cardio for staying fit.
8. Explore Gym Alternatives.Virtual workouts and classes are ideal when you want to avoid the health risks of going to the gym in person. But if you’re still zoomed out from the 2020 lockdowns, there are plenty of other options. Consider a fitness studio, boutique gym, or personal training session. Invest in home workout equipment if you don’t already own it. Walking or running outdoors is another good choice.
9. Look Out for the Safety of Others.“Just because someone is back at the gym, does not mean they have the same sense of safety as you,” says Dr. Exelbert. “Always be mindful of keeping a six-foot distance.” She recommends asking permission before giving anyone a hug or handshake. Dr. Exelbert also advises avoiding gym child-care facilities, when possible, for the safety of both your family and others. If you’re not feeling well or have been exposed to infection, don’t go to the gym at all. “It is our job to protect ourselves and those around us,” she says.
10. Monitor Infection Rates.If COVID-19 or flu cases are high and increasing where you live, ramp up your precautions. Even when the rates are lower, extra vigilance can’t hurt. Most state and county governments provide statistics on local infection rates and trends.
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to making the best, healthiest workout decisions for you. Evaluate conditions where you live, consider your own personal risk factors, and look for venues that do a thorough job of keeping everyone safe. Whether you choose a smart gym workout or a non-gym alternative, you can keep moving this winter and stay healthy, too.
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