Are gyms safe during times of increased COVID-19 spread?

Gyms and fitness centers in the U.S. closed for weeks early in the COVID-19 pandemic. They have reopened in much of the country now, but as cases rise, many are wondering whether gyms should remain open.

A study that appeared on the pre-print server MedRxIV on Thursday suggests gyms might not be high risk.

Researchers at the University of Oslo aimed to determine whether closing gyms because of the coronavirus was necessary.

They enrolled close to 4,000 people between the ages of 18 to 64 with no significant medical history and randomized them into two groups: training and no training. People in the training group could train at five facilities specifically open for this study.

Gym operators increased social distancing in the gyms – at least 3 feet between exercisers on the main floor and at least 6 feet in high-intensity classes. Hand washing and cleaning equipment were increased. While locker rooms were left open, showers and saunas were closed.

The scientists found no outpatient visits or hospital admissions due to COVID-19 in either the gym or no gym group. They concluded that “Provided good hygiene and social distancing measures, there was no increased COVID-19 spread at training facilities.”

It appears that gyms are relatively safe, but Norway has a fairly low infection rate compared to the rates in parts of this country right now. It’s hard to know if American gym-goers would have increased chances of catching the virus with cases now on the rise.

Exercise is great for your mental and physical health. If you feel you must go to the gym, do your best to wash your hands before touching your face, wipe down all equipment you use before and after you use it, and stay at least 6 feet away from others working out.