A woman wipes her sweat on a towel and throws it to the floor. A man coughs into his hand, then grabs the cross trainer.
There’s no doubt about it, gyms are a hotbed of germs – so as coronavirus continues to spread across the UK, how cautious do we need to be?
Dr Jenna Macciochi, an immunologist based at the University of Sussex, tells HuffPost UK that gyms “definitely do pose a risk”, as people are in close proximity and sharing equipment.
“Everyone should take care to carefully clean equipment with alcohol-based sanitiser and wash hands regularly,” she adds. “Try not to touch your face and practise good etiquette with tissues.”
If you have any symptoms of coughing or sneezing, you should avoid gyms completely to reduce the risk of spreading the virus or other illnesses, she adds.
Coronavirus, officially called Covid-19, is thought to be transmitted via person-to-person when people are in close contact of around 1.8m and predominantly via coughing and sneezing, “releasing aerosolised droplets that land on people or are inhaled by people,” says Dr Macciochi.
There’s no evidence of coronavirus being spread via sweat, but transmission can also occur if someone with the virus coughs or sneezes onto their hands, then touches public surfaces. Because of this, hand hygiene is crucial in the gym.
A number of chains in the UK have introduced new policies amid the outbreak to reassure members of their safety. Fitness First, for example, has emailed all members to explain their hygiene processes, such as “thoroughly and regularly disinfecting and cleaning down all club surfaces and equipment”.
“In addition, we are installing notices in-club about the importance of hand hygiene, adding anti-bacterial surface wipes in club and ensuring all staff are kept fully up to date on this issue,” the email continued.
Nationwide chain PureGym has told customers it has “increased the level of cleaning and hygiene” in all gyms, including ensuring all hand sanitiser dispensers remain filled. Spin group SoulCycle and London-based Paola’s BodyBarre have emailed class regulars with similar updates, while gym-goers on Twitter have noticed high fives are no longer in vogue after classes.
If you haven’t heard from your gym about the measures it is taking, it might be worth getting in touch if you’re worried.
The government is yet to implement a formal “social distancing” strategy, but has warned that if the virus continues to spread, we could be asked to change the way we interact with one another in the coming weeks – and this could include our gym habits.
Until we have firm instructions, avoiding the gym at peak times might help ease some anxiety you’re feeling about coronavirus. If you’re still concerned, going for a run in the fresh air or exercising at home may be a good alternative.