As gyms and fitness centers find ways to continue social distancing practices in order to ensure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s going to take time for things to return to normal. In Los Angeles, one workout class exercises in individual “gainz pods,” which mimic cubicles with shower curtains and PVC pipe helping create a safer environment. Fitness places like boutique businesses are gearing up to space out equipment and plan to heavily sanitize after each class.
But even with new practices in place, there’s still going to be a hesitancy to get a workout in or even go to the gym. Recent research conducted by OnePoll on behalf of LIFEAID Beverage Co. found that one in four Americans said they would not be returning to gyms after the pandemic is over, while one in three respondents said they’d still go but just not as often.
Like anything during this pandemic, we flirt with risk to do anything that might jeopardize social distancing. But for gymgoers, a new study found that you’re safe to return to your favorite workout class — just as long as there’s no COVID-19 around.
Researchers from the University of Oslo conducted a study of five gyms in Norway where they found that there was no increased COVID-19 spread when preventive safety measures were followed. The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, followed more than 3,700 people who had no COVID-19 symptoms. Half of the study’s participants were given gym access while the others were not.
The study started while Norway was still in lockdown and implemented social distancing protocols and enhanced hygiene measures inside gyms, where locker rooms were open but showers closed.
The three-week study revealed only one person tested positive of all the 3,016 participants. Through contact tracing, the individual was infected in their workplace and not at the gym. In addition, 83 of 91 employees (91.2%) at the gym sites did not test positive for the coronavirus during the trial period.
“Our trial showed no virus transmission or increase in COVID-19 disease that was related to the opening of gym facilities, providing good hygiene and social distancing routines were in place,” said the University of Solo professor Michael Bretthauer in a statement.
“Basic hand hygiene and social distancing measures – by securing 1 to 2 meters distance between individuals – are well-proven and important virus transmission protection measures. They are inexpensive, easy to apply, and do not require large resources.”
Emily Smith, an epidemiologist at George Washington University, told Science Magazine that additional research is needed since the experiment didn’t include sick people.
“There were zero sick people who went to the gym in this study,” she told the outlet. “We need to know what happens when people who are sick with COVID—but perhaps don’t yet have symptoms or have mild symptoms—go to the gym, take a spin class, and share a locker room with others.”