With proper precautions, gyms are safe from COVID-19.
New research out of Norway has found that fitness facilities are at no higher risk of spreading COVID-19— as long as proper hygiene and social distancing measures are followed.
This is good news for gyms, which have only recently reopened across Australia, after being closed for months.
The research, the first of its kind in Europe, aimed to find out whether gyms were at an increased risk of spreading the virus.
Researchers took a randomised group of people across five gyms. The total number of participants was 3,764; all members of one of the five fitness facilities. Their ages were between 18 and 64.
Half of the participants got to train at their gym, while the other half did not.
The gyms were opened only for these participants and regular services at these gyms were available, including group fitness classes.
Participants using the gyms had to abide by social distancing and increased hygiene practices. This meant keeping at least one metre between members on the gym floor and two metres between members in classes. Additionally, all workout stations required disinfecting after use with hand and surface sanitisers provided by the facilities.
To ensure adherence and safety, gym staff would monitor the members.
At the end of the experimental period, participants received COVID-19 testing if they agreed to it. Out of the 80 per cent who consented to testing, there was only one positive test.
The positive test was from a member assigned to the training group but who had not yet attended the gym. After contact tracing had occurred, it was found that this member had been exposed at their workplace.
In addition, the 91 staff members from the five gyms involved in the study were also tested for COVID-19. All tested negative.
The researchers concluded that:
“If hygiene and distancing measures could be achieved, we assumed it would be safe to open gyms and training facilities.
“As our results show, there was no increase in COVID-related disease due to the opening of gyms and training facilities.”
Although the study only ran for three weeks, it provides evidence that gyms are no more prone to COVID-19 exposure than other places where people congregate.
Provided appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures are followed, gyms can and should be able to operate safely. Luckily, these measures are relatively inexpensive to implement; they require vigilance from staff to ensure members are doing the right thing.
Bretthauer, M. (2020) Randomized Re-Opening of Training Facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. TRAiN study group.
Note: This research has been published by medRxiv, a pre-print server for health sciences. This means it has not yet been peer-reviewed.