Should you go to the gym during the coronavirus pandemic? This is what the experts say (plus 10 things to expect)

As we slowly go back to work or other activities like restaurants, we might also be itching to move some weights around and just work out in a space that isn’t our living room (with our dog staring at us.) But is it safe to go to the gym?

“From a biologic and physiologic perspective, it’s a bad idea,” said Gavis Harris, MD in an article with Health, since the virus is spread through droplets in the air and spread all over on the kettlebells and ellipticals gym rats love to share. But if things get better that changes.

Hospitals from Italy and other hard-hit areas say the coronavirus isn’t spreading like its peak, but that doesn’t undermine the severity of the disease for those who do get it. So experts say if you’re older and/or at risk, you might best stick inside, maybe to outdoor or online exercise. For everyone else, it’s a risk each person, gym and state determine. 

If you’re tired of wall squats, here are 10 ideas of what it’ll look like and how to stay safe if you go to the gym.


  • Not all states are allowing gyms to operate


Although Georgia lifted restrictions as early as April 24th, many other states are still not allowing gyms to reopen. Check your state .gov website for announcements or read the news for updates. Check with your favorite trainer to see if they’re offering closed sessions one-on-one.


  • You might have to wait to get in


Most gyms are going to operate or are operating half capacity. It’s just the way it is to ensure their liability and your safety. Guidelines are also encouraging signs and tape to keep the flow of sitting or working out fairly far apart.


  • You might be required to socially distance inside or wear a mask


In Georgia and other states, if you are temperature-checked for a high fever or show COVID-19 symptoms at the door, owners reserve the right to turn you away. In Colorado, where gyms were just allowed to reopen, state guidelines ask clients to follow the following guidelines to keep everyone safer. There, gyms are operating at quarter capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer. Here are their rules and guidelines for gym-goers:

  • Continue to physically distance, staying at least 6 feet from members of other households.
  • Stay home other than getting tested if you are sick or have COVID-19 symptoms
  • Avoid recreating in public spaces if anyone in your household is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Encouraged to wear a mask while recreating.
  • Bring hand sanitizer to clean hands when soap and water is not available.


  • Workers and trainers will be sanitizing between equipment use


Shared equipment is notoriously dirty. Ringworm, athletes’ foot, staph, and many other nasty infections have been found at gyms. One 2014 study found up to 25 types of bacteria found on gym equipment, long before the days of coronavirus. So expect constant cleaning and having to possibly wait between sets on your calves and thigh machines.


  • Expect fewer machines, spaced apart with plexiglass in-between


In Arizona, guidelines state, “Arrange cardio equipment so that appropriate physical distancing can be adhered to.” The local Crossfit Box might have a few more boxes within it!


  • You’ll be expected to wipe it down


You already should have been doing this at the gym, per the bacteria infections mentioned above. But if not, get to it before and after each time you run on the treadmill, row, use the free weights or anything else you touch. Use approved-to-kill-coronavirus gym wipes or a spray bottle with a paper towel and immediately throw it away after.


  • Gym classes might be outside or look different


CDC research showed one huge outbreak of coronavirus was linked back to an inside gym class. So expect to do Zumba outside on the patio or elsewhere right now. Expect the AC on blast or windows open, instructors wearing masks, and constant wiping. If you’re six feet away from another dancer or push-upper, you’re still at risk, but it’s lessened if classes do this.


  • Pools, showers, basketball courts, and other facilities will be limited or not open


Some pools are limiting clients to lap swim only at 30% capacity, and no classes. Check with your local owner on their rules. In Georgia they are “Requiring patrons to spray showers with a provided cleaning spray after use.” And elsewhere, you might see workers wiping mirrors, closing showers to clean on the hour and more.


  • Sports leagues are allowed in many cases


Coronavirus doesn’t spread as easily outside. So your softball team might be saved. But don’t expect indoor volleyball unless your gym has special permissions. Low contact sports like cross country running are encouraged over something like football. And your friends or partner probably can’t watch from the sidelines.


  • You may be limited to 60 minutes 


In order to comply with New York’s orders, popular chain Planet Fitness is doing a phased reopening with only some locations open or limited capacity. Crunch, a popular New York brand, is asking patrons to limit workouts to 60 minutes.

Whatever you do, be sure to get in 30 to 60 minutes a day right now. It helps relieve stress and get you feeling better. Plus running, biking and walking are always free and available to social distance. But if you head back to the gym, follow these guidelines to stay safe and well.