Gyms around Indiana were allowed to re-open as a part the state's stage three plan, and while it allows people in the community to get back to lifting weights, more opportunities for the transmission of coronavirus arise with it. Although no decisions have been made about the availability of on-campus gyms, IU students will be back in Bloomington in less than two months.
The Indiana Daily Student spoke with IU Health physician Kevin Miller about how to stay safe while exercising and making the return to campus.
Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
What types of physical activity would be considered high-risk right now?
Miller: I would say that most gym activities constitute a high-risk activity just because a lot of times it’s inside. First and foremost, I would probably make a recommendation to my patients and everyone else to exercise outside if you can.
That involves running or riding a bicycle or doing exercise classes outside. A lot of local, small gyms have been hosting activities outside rather than having people inside. I would recommend staying outside with most of your activities.
What precautions should be taken if I am going to a gym?
Miller: You want to make sure that all of the equipment is properly spaced out. If you go back to your gym and the equipment is all still smashed together, or they haven’t blocked off equipment and moved it apart, then the gym isn’t ready to re-open.
You should also make sure that they’re cleaning the equipment frequently and that you can clean your own equipment. Bring your own water bottle, so that you’re not drinking out of the water fountain. You probably don’t even want to fill up your water bottle in the water fountain.
How frequently should I clean the equipment?
Miller: You want to make sure that you're cleaning your equipment before you use it, after you use it and cleaning your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer frequently. If you have any high-risk categories on the CDC website, just avoid going to a gym right now.
Should I be wearing a mask in the gym?
Miller: If you need to go inside to go to a gym, make sure you’re wearing a mask with any indoor activity. If you don’t feel comfortable exercising with a mask on because you can’t breathe well, then I would suggest not returning to exercise yet.
I don’t see any problems with breathing hard in a mask, it’s not going to cause any major problems. If you’re really exerting yourself and having trouble getting air in or out, then maybe you shouldn’t be wearing a mask or your mask is too thick. But, if you’re having trouble with that, I would recommend exercising outside.
If I haven’t been working out during the last few months, should I jump right back into training?
Miller: When you are returning to working out from an extended absence, you want to be careful to avoid an injury by not returning to the same weight, speed, intensity, or mileage that you were doing before the break. Start off lower, and slowly work your way back up to what you were doing before.
What if I want to play team sports at a gym?
Miller: Make sure that they’re cleaning the basketballs or other balls frequently. Make sure that you’re maintaining social distance, and wear a mask if you can. Make sure you're cleaning your hands frequently before and after games and not touching your face during games.
What other ways can I reduce the risk of catching coronavirus?
Miller: You should have hand sanitizer with you frequently if you’re touching surfaces or other things. You can bring your own cleaning wipes to the gym and clean off the equipment yourself if you don’t trust the sanitation procedures that they have in place.