Should you avoid the gym due to coronavirus?

As coronavirus has started to creep across the U.S., more and more people are taking precautions to avoid contracting the deadly virus that has unfortunately already claimed the lives of over 3,400 victims worldwide.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a website dedicated to the virus and set in place the following recommendations:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
Over social media, many are also "overstocking" on essential items like non-perishable foods, bottled water, and toilet paper at Costco.

Others are avoiding densely crowded areas and working from home.  But how about working out at the gym?

The church of iron

The gym, aka the church of iron for us dedicated bodybuilders, is filled with pathogens that we hate.  You've got bros with sweaty and dirty hands gripping all those dumbbells and barbells, and ladies sweating all over the elliptical machines.  In fact, those treadmills may have 74 times as much bacteria as a water faucet, and those free weights you’re curling with may have 362 times more bacteria than toilet seats.  And literally all the benches and weight training machines are constantly rubbed up against dirty and sweaty asses.  It's the definitive cesspool for catching a disease like coronavirus, right?

Well, yes and no.  The CDC has cited that a minimum distance of 6 feet may be required to contract coronavirus from an infected individual.  Generally, you do end up roughly 6 feet away from the person pacing on the treadmill to your right or the bro doing dumbbell presses to your left.  But you're not touching them, and they most likely will never be sick.  Doing heavy-ass dumbbell presses while sick is a definitive accident waiting to happen, and good look with your sinuses if you're running on the treadmill while sick.

Gym precautions

Just as the CDC has recommended, take the necessary safety measures to limit your chances of contracting the coronavirus.  Your local gym is filled with hand sanitizer, disinfectant wiping paper towels, and soap dispensers at the sink for a reason.  Use them to their fullness, and wipe down the benches and machines before touching or using them.  Never touch your face, and always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, which is the equivalent of singing the song "Happy Birthday" twice.  If you witness anyone sick or with excessive coughing or sneezing, then it would definitely be a good idea to keep your distance.  But above all, do NOT go to the gym if you're not feeling well!!  Yes, this is a tough one, especially since our biceps look all small when we have a fever.  But fear not, it's not a loss of gains, but of water retention.

If you're really "skittish", you can also go to the gym when it's less crowded like later at night or the crack of dawn to avoid the heavy crowds.

My gym's reassurances

In an effort to prevent their members from being scared of going to the gym, 24 Hour Fitness has been sending out "reassurance" e-mails:
Combined with our daily in-club janitorial service cleanings, our procedures include team member in-club disinfectant cleanings to help diminish the spread of germs. Paper towels and cleaning solution are available in each club and we encourage you to wipe down objects you may touch, including fitness equipment, before and after your workouts.
In addition, to keep your immune system at its highest level, it’s also important to get sufficient sleep and continue your workout routine.
I couldn't agree with their final statement more.  Avoiding the gym due to the risk of contracting coronavirus may actually do you more harm than good if you fall off your routine or don't get your proper exercise in.  Yes, there are bodyweight exercises that you can be doing at home, but don't neglect weight training and cardio.

Bottom line

The gym is filled with pathogens, but so is your local supermarket and work office.  Do NOT go to the gym if you are not feeling well, and take the necessary sanitary precautions in the gym to put yourself less at risk of contracting an illness.  But don't give up on your workout routine or those gains that you worked so hard for just because of the coronavirus.  Exercising, sleep, and diet are all part of a healthy lifestyle, and removing the exercise part of the equation will do you more harm than good.


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