Is it safe to return to the gym? As a growing number of communities ease the stay-at-home mandates put in place to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, gyms are beginning to reopen their doors, even as the virus continues to rage.

To find out more about gyms and the risks for coronavirus exposure there, I spoke with clinicians, researchers, engineers and gym owners in Atlanta where newly reopened facility caters, in part, to scientists from the nearby Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

What follows is their expert consensus about whether, when and how best to head back safely to weight rooms, cardio machines and classes, including tips about what gym wipes are effective, and-

And what equipment is most grimy, how to socially distance on treadmills and why we should keep several gym towels draped over our shoulders throughout our workouts.


By their very nature, athletic facilities like gyms tend to be germy. In a study published this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, flu virus and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in four different athletic training facilities.

''When you have a relatively high density of people exercising and sweating in a contained space, you have conditions where communicable diseases can spread easily,'' said Dr. James Voos, the chairman of orthopedic surgery at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, the head team physician for the Cleveland Browns and senior author of the study.

Gym equipment also can be devilishly difficult to sanitize. Dumbbells and kettlebells, for instance, ''are high touch metal, with strange shapes and many different places people can grasp,'' said Dr. Deverick Anderson, a professor of medicine and director of the Duke Center for Antimicrobial Stewardship and Infection Prevention at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC. ''They are not easy to clean.''

In consequence, ''people are going to have to understand and accept that there will be some risk '' of virus transmission, if and when they revisit their gyms, Dr. Anderson said.

''But,'' he said, ''there are many steps people can take to mitigate those risks.''


First, and most essential, the experts agree, plan to disinfect yourself and any surface you touch at your gym, frequently.

''There should be a sink with a soap so that you can wash your hands, or a hand sanitizer station as soon as you walk in the door,'' said Redford Slough, the owner of Urban Body Fitness, a gym in downtown Atlanta frequented by doctors and C.D, C scientists.

Sign in procedures should not require touch, and gym employees should stand behind sneeze guards or be wearing face masks, he adds.

The Honor and Serving of the latest global operational research on ''Gyms and Germs'', continues to part 2.. The World Students Society thanks author Gretchen Reynolds.


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