Is It Safe To Go Back To The Gym?

Thinking of going to the gym soon? Here’s what you should do first.

Whether to open gyms or keep them closed has been controversial during the pandemic. On one hand, gyms are confined indoor spaces, filled with people breathing heavily as they exert themselves – and there are lots of high-touch surfaces. Since COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets, that can be a real problem. But working out is important to your mental and physical health and many people prefer to get their exercise at a gym.

If getting back to the gym is something you want to do (and they’re open by you), first find out what safety precautions the gym is taking, as well as what you can do to stay as safe as possible. Although exact guidelines can vary greatly from state to state and even county to county, there are some essential precautions facilities should take to reduce risk. There are also extra steps you can take to protect yourself and others.

What Fitness Centers Can Do to Protect You

  • Capacity limits: Facility use may be limited to a certain number of people at a time. There may be less equipment available or fewer spots in classes. Reservations may be required so visits can be staggered.
  • Gym entry: Face coverings may be required during entry/exit or at all times except when you’re actively working out. There may be a temperature check as you enter. Sign-in procedures may change so patrons don’t have to interact closely with staff members or touch a communal pen and paper.
  • Spacing: Equipment may be spaced farther apart to allow for social distancing. Fitness classes, if available, may limit the number of attendees so people can stay at least 6 feet apart. Circles or stickers may mark each participant’s spot on the floor.
  • Cleaning: Staff will likely be cleaning all machines and surfaces regularly, even though gym users should also be wiping down equipment before and after use.
  • Other changes: Normal services like lockers, water dispensers, showers and childcare may not be available. The same goes for communal-use equipment like foam rollers and fitness mats.

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself and Others

  • Preparation: Call your gym or visit their website ahead of time so you know what to expect. Do you need a reservation? Are you allowed to bring your own fitness mat or other accessories? Is there anything you should or should not do?
  • What to bring: Make sure you have enough water to keep you hydrated throughout your workout session. Bring your own towel and be careful where you set it down when you’re not using it. Bring a mask and keep it handy at all times.
  • Social distancing: Observe the facility’s safety guidelines, even if (and especially if) you see others around you not doing so. If you’re in a fitness class and you’re assigned a certain spot, remain there throughout the session. If you’re waiting to use a machine, stay back until the other person is finished and has had a chance to wipe it down.
  • Clean, clean and clean: Use any provided disinfectant and wipes for cleaning all equipment before and after use. After your workout, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Try not to touch your face while you’re at the gym, at least until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly.
  • Be smart: If you’re concerned about the safety precautions your gym is (or isn’t) taking, consider exercising outdoors, working out at home or going to another gym that’s being more vigilant about safety measures. If you’re feeling sick at all, definitely stay home.


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Date Last Reviewed: July 8, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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