Coronavirus: Gym Risk?

Dan Chojnacki is a writer for Exercise.com and a personal trainer in Green Bay, WI. In his free time away from work, Dan stays busy in a variety of different ways. He is a runner, tennis player, youth softball coach, home beer brewer, and saxophone player. Dan is also a fan of all things having to do with Wisconsin sports including Brewers baseball, Bucks basketball, all Wisconsin Badgers sports, ...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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Get the Basics...

  • Make sanitizing easier for members
  • Close confined areas like saunas and whirlpools
  • Prop doors open to avoid unnecessary handle-touching 
  • Check in on members during a quarantine
  • Stay up to date with local and federal news surrounding COVID-19
  • Embrace technology and promote online training using Exercise.com’s All-in-One Fitness Business Software.

As you look around the gym, you see a familiar scene. There are people lying on mats, holding on to dumbbells, and breathing heavily on the cardio equipment. It is not exactly the picture of perfect hygiene that we would prefer to see.

Even in the cleanliest gyms with the most responsible members, the heightened awareness of the impact of COVID-19, the coronavirus, is causing people to wonder if going in for their workout is really worth the risk.

This is an important consideration and should not be taken lightly. In addition, however, gym owners need to be prepared to help stop the spread of the virus, which may include a number of different elements. Preventing the spread of the virus is paramount but gyms can also provide other services to members to help keep the facility safe. This is an area in which Exercise.com can help, and we will touch more on that later.

If you are interested in seeing how our fitness business management software can help you, request a demo today.

Exercise.com is not a medical provider, so, as always keep up to date with news as it continues to develop and follow the instructions provided to you by your healthcare professionals and local governing bodies.

Risks of Working Out at a Gym

Even during times without a pandemic, gyms are not exactly the most germ-free places on Earth. People are constantly touching weights, sitting on machines, and dripping sweat in various places. Does this mean that we should avoid going to the gym to avoid catching the super contagious coronavirus?

Not necessarily, but that doesn’t mean there are no risks.

For starters, the coronavirus cannot be transmitted via sweat. In a setting where the ultimate goal is often to produce as much sweat as possible, this is certainly a positive. The problem, however, is that the virus can be transmitted on certain surfaces, like metal and plastic, and can remain viable for up to three days.

If you are set on going to your local fitness center in order to avoid missing a workout, normal precautions need to not only be followed but elevated, especially if you live in an area known to be affected by the coronavirus. Sanitize equipment before and after use is vital, as is washing your hands before, during, and after your workout.

The other risk of continuing your gym regimen is your proximity to other people. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the coronavirus is spread mainly from close contact (within six feet) to another individual and from respiratory droplets emitted by the cough or sneeze of an affected individual.

This means that even with sanitizing and hand washing regularly, the virus is more commonly transmitted through the air. This only poses a problem if someone in your area is infected. If that is the case, however, it is certainly difficult to avoid being within six feet of every individual in your gym, making your risk higher.

Preventing the Spread of Coronavirus in Your Gym

Hanging signs or posting reminders on social media for members to wash their hands or wipe down equipment is a positive start, but the fact is that many members will still not follow directions if it is inconvenient. There are more prominent methods you can use to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in your facility.

Make Sanitizing Easier for Members

Rather than simply telling members to wash or sanitize their hands more often, gym management should set up more stations that have sanitizer so people pass them more frequently. As trivial as it may sound, some people will knowingly choose not to sanitize their hands simply because they will have to walk over to a dispenser on the other end of the gym. By setting up more dispensers, you are eliminating this excuse.

These stations should be placed in high traffic areas. Any door that members enter through should have a sanitizing station nearby. This will help make sure members have clean hands right when they walk in and after they leave for the day. Dispensers should also be placed near equipment that is most frequently touched with people’s hands, like dumbbells, barbells, or weight machines.

Additionally, providing more cleaning bottles or sanitizing wipes, for members to use on equipment, is an important part of encouraging them to do their part to keep your facility clean. It might even be beneficial to have staff members walking around and giving these bottles and wipes to members as a reminder. This may seem unnecessary to some, but it is better to err on the side of caution in this instance.

Close Areas With Confined Spaces

Most gyms contain locker rooms that are available to members, but many also feature saunas, steam rooms, or whirlpools. It is not yet known whether the coronavirus spreads more easily in a damp or humid environment but, regardless, these amenities are normally in smaller spaces. This means that, unless you are the only person there, you are likely to be within six feet or another individual.

Even if you are by yourself, you are still at risk of contracting the virus if another infected person had used the space. Respiratory droplets can remain viable for up to three hours in the air, meaning you have no way to know whether or not you are free of risk.

It is not feasible to shut down a locker room entirely due to the need for toilets and sinks. After all, the importance of handwashing has been frequently stated. However, it is within the realm of your power, as a gym owner, to suspend the use or non-essential and smaller spaces in order to help limit the potential spread of the virus.

Don’t Let Your Members Be Touchy

Other than walking, most people’s daily movements are performed predominantly with their hands. Because of this, you should try to limit the number of surface areas touched by members in any way you can.

For example, prop doors open when possible so people do not have to push them open, or limit the use of remote controls for community TVs that are in the facility. These might seem like small contributors, but it only takes one infected individual to touch a surface before others pick up the virus.

Not all frequently touched surfaces can be contained, which is why you need your staff to be diligent about cleaning everything. Handrails, keyboards, desks, and faucets are all examples of areas that cannot necessarily be freed from use but need to be carefully cleaned in order to prevent a spread.

Stay in Communication With Members

The coronavirus is beginning to affect daily life for everyone and gym members want to be informed about any interruption to their routine. The issue is that, in a situation as fluid and unknown as this, it is difficult to have anything concrete to pass along. Nonetheless, it is important that you communicate with your members as much as possible to let them know that you are aware of the situation and understand their concerns.

Many facilities are sending out emails to their membership base to relay information. These messages can change based on the facility and situation, however, they most often include cleaning reminders, requests to stay home when sick, and information about changes to gym hours of services. Here is a sample template:

“Dear Valued Member,

In the past few weeks, COVID-19 has become the premier topic of news all over the globe. From politics to sports, every area of our world is becoming affected and fitness centers are no exception. With that in mind, we’d like to take this opportunity to communicate with you about what COVID-19 means for our facility.

To start, we’d like to stress that there is no need for panic. We take precautions against disease and unforeseen accidents in our lives every day, regardless of if they are happening or not. This is our approach to COVID-19. We would like to set forth guidelines to be used as preventative measures against the contraction and spread of the virus. We ask for your cooperation in adhering to these guidelines:

  1. Proper hygiene is always important to our facility, but we are asking members to pay extra attention to this for your safety and that of staff and other members. Please wash and/or sanitize your hands frequently.
  2. Avoid touching your face, as well as making contact with other members. Because this virus is spread through close contact, we are asking that you avoid high-fiving other members and offer verbal forms of encouragement instead.
  3. If you do not feel right, please stay home. This is for the safety of staff and other members. While you may feel like you can push through your workout, this poses a potential risk to others in the facility. We are happy to provide you with options for at-home workouts, such as a virtual class or a workout created by one of our personal trainers.
  4. If you have traveled outside of the country, or to an area heavily affected by COVID-19, please stay home for the reasons listed above.
  5. Provided that you are healthy and willing to follow the guidelines we have highlighted, we are pleased to continue to welcome you to our facility.

We understand that the unknowns of this virus make the situation ever-changing, and we are committed to staying in contact with you regarding any changes that may occur within our facility. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.”

The preventative measures you take, as a gym owner, have a potentially large effect on the severity of a coronavirus outbreak. As shown below, there is a positive correlation between taking proactive measures and both outbreak and fatality rates.

The fourth bullet point, in the individual protective measures category, is to stay home if you are sick. This applies to employees as well as members. It is important to stress, to your employees, that there is no shame in staying home and that you appreciate them taking caution. That same point is important to drive home to members, and it might be more effective if a solution is presented.

There are die-hard workout enthusiasts who will refuse to miss a workout under any circumstance. While this can be an admirable quality, it may not be in the best interest of the health of your club. Instead, consider providing them with other workout options.

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Use Exercise.com to Stay Engaged With Members

No one wants a situation in which others are sick or are not in a condition to make it to the gym. Under these circumstances, however, Exercise.com does have the means to help gym owners stay connected to their members and provide a service. This is mutually beneficial because members still have a quality workout option but fitness centers do not endure any potential risk from a potentially sick individual.

Using Exercise.com’s software, you can create and schedule workouts while allowing your members to track their progress and statistics from home. You have the option to provide a generic workout that can be be used by anyone or you can offer a customized workout to those who want a plan tailored to their goals. There is even a way for you to provide fun workout challenges within the software to keep your gym community strong, even when they aren’t physically together.

Here are the steps we recommend for starting a home-workout program for your members:

  1. Get Set-Up with Exercise.com. Our world-class development team is ready to help you customize fitness management software to fit the needs of your business. We are with you every step of the way, providing you with whatever options you feel give the most benefit to your business. As previously stated, this might include workout creation, tracking, or communication with members.
  2. Ask Your Members to Download the App. Everything your clients and members need to succeed is in your customized app. They can view their home workouts, track their progress, talk to a coach, participate in a challenge, and any variety of other things you decide to offer.
  3. Create Workouts. Once you’ve completed the first two steps, you need to make sure you have content available to your members, especially those who need to stay home to help protect others. Once your workouts and challenges are created, you can put them into an individual’s daily or weekly schedule. If they want to do the workout as they please, you can still have it available within the app to use whenever.
  4. Schedule Follow-Up Calls. For those individuals that do want a schedule, try to follow-up with them via a call when possible. This will not only help their progress but also make them feel like a valued member of the gym. Both of these will make them comfortable to stay home until they are healthy enough to come back.

Our world is currently in an unsettling time. The rapid spread of coronavirus has left us with more questions than answers and this makes daily activities, like going to the gym, difficult. We want to keep our bodies healthy by working out but we also don’t want to put others at risk.

As a gym member, consider whether or not you plan to follow health guidelines set forth by your gym before deciding to go. Additionally, if you feel sick at all, stay home to help prevent the potential spread of the virus.

For those who are gym owners, help prevent the virus by making cleanliness and sanitation more available for members. Stay in contact with them so they understand as much detail, about the situation, as you’re able to give them. It would also be a wise choice to provide members and clients with options for home workouts so they are not tempted to come in if they aren’t feeling well.

Follow these guidelines and, together, members and gym owners can continue to promote health and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If you think Exercise.com would be a beneficial tool for your gym, request a demo today.

See for yourself – Meet with the Exercise.com Team today.