Can I Go to Group Workout Classes During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Slotting in a workout en masse is great for motivation, but, in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, it may not be the smartest choice

Group training in gym
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When it comes to persuading yourself to exercise, there are few incentives better than grabbing a friend or two and doing it as a team. It's the same with group fitness classes — from CrossFit to spinning — where the extra energy in the room can help you blast through even the toughest of workouts. But, as the coronavirus continues to spread from country to country and person to person — what does it mean for your group workout habits?

First things first, it's a no-brainer that a sweaty group workout is almost the polar opposite of 'self-isolation' or 'social distancing', especially when you're surrounded by people sweating and using shared equipment, such as kettlebells, dumbbells, mats and exercise bikes. Frankly, it's hard to obey the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's advice for staying six feet away from people.

If the equipment isn't properly sanitised and people aren't feeling well, group workouts can be an incredibly easy way to pass on an illness such as COVID-19, so it pays to be diligent when it comes to exercising.

With most commercial gyms such as Virgin Active UK, DW Fitness First and Pure Gym — see a more detailed breakdown here — urging their customers for improved cleanliness and for thoroughness wiping down kit, the onus comes down to the gym-user asking themselves if it's safe to go to a group workout during the coronavirus pandemic.

If, for whatever reason, you're desperate to hit a workout in a class or grind through a WOD with some friends, you've got to be sensible about it. If you can, try and keep numbers to a minimum and keep a good distance between all of you. Similarly, do not share kit and wipe down any piece of equipment thoroughly before and after using it.

Typically, the coronavirus is spread through droplets such as those from a sneeze or a cough, but it can also live on surfaces (like your smartphone) for hours, even days, at a time. This makes washing your hands completely vital — here's our guide — as well as avoiding contact with your face and wiping down kit. Similarly, as tempting as it may be, avoid high-fiving, fist-bumping or hugging.

Until group workout venues are forced to shut their doors indefinitely, attendance for group workout classes remains the individual's prerogative. But it's a time to be sensible rather than egotistical.

"You shouldn’t give up exercise as this is very beneficial for general health, wellbeing and immunity. I would advise to do exercise at home– go for a walk or a run to support cardio fitness," explains Dr Joshua Berkowitz, Medical Director of IV BOOST UK.

"There are also lots of home workouts available online for strength and cardio and can be done from the comfort of your living room." If you're new to home workouts, here's how to get started.

However, some business owners remain open — not for improving profit margins, but for the health of their members.

"It's vital now more than ever that we invest in our health and regular exercise is key to this. Building and maintaining a strong immune system is the best defence we have against Covid-19 and we can achieve this by increasing our white blood cell count, which happens when we exercise. If you pair that with a healthy and nutritious diet you have nature's power anti-dote to common colds and viruses," Jonathan Williams, Director URBANFITNESS London, a London-based health club.

"Gyms and fitness centres are incredibly clean. There are very stringent cleaning rotas which have been upped in light of this virus so you'll find gyms are one of the cleanest places you can be right now."

Similarly, Williams believes that continuing to exercise will feed into our mental wellbeing. "If we want to give ourselves the best chance possible to ride this virus out we need to look at how we are fuelling our bodies, how we are keeping our minds active and engaged and regular exercise. We urge the government and our communities to keep exercising, keep buying fresh food and we can beat this."

In a previous interview, Dr Ravi Tomar, a GP at Portland Medical, warned that, "As viruses can live on a surface outside the human body for several hours, gym equipment is a prime culprit for picking up an illness."

"The most effective way of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the gym, or any other virus for that matter, is for people who aren’t feeling well to simply skip their gym session and stay at home until they’re sure it’s not coronavirus." Our advice? Stick to home workouts, like this, and play it safe.

But, if you're not sure if it's allergies or something far worse, call NHS 111 or use the online coronavirus service to seek medical advice.


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