People have embraced novel ways of staying fit during the coronavirus lockdown, with an NBN survey finding that one in two Australians who worked from home have also tried online fitness classes. But those who rely on equipment for their workouts or group classes to motivate them, will no doubt be over the moon when their gym is allowed to reopen as restrictions ease.
In South Australia and Queensland gyms reopened on 1 June, joining the Northern Territory and Western Australia where gyms were already operating. In New South Wales,gyms will reopen from 13th Of June.
However, extra precautions must still be taken in these closed spaces especially since working out means shared equipment, sweating and heavy breathing.
Staying fit is great for physical and mental health and wellbeing, says virologist Dr Sacha Stelzer-Braid from the University of New South Wales. Like many others, she relies on the gym for motivation. “If you’re like me, I have to have someone to tell me what to do,” she says.
But there will be an element of risk while Covid-19 is still potentially lurking. Research suggests people can still spread the virus while asymptomatic, and it just takes one person to ignite it in a super-spreading environment like the gym.
“That’s why the authorities have put off gym opening,” says professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an infectious disease epidemiologist also from UNSW, who has been studying Covid-19. “Because when you’re exerting yourself, you’re really pushing the particles out from the lower part of your lungs and you’re really breathing very deeply.” McLaws notes that saliva droplets are the most potent source of infection, although indirect spread can also occur.
As Australians start venturing out, it is vital to be kind and thoughtful to others as well as protecting ourselves.
Most importantly, Stelzer-Braid and McLaws urge people to stay away if they have any signs of feeling unwell. “This old idea that we had of pushing through a minor virus or feeling slightly off and go for a run or … the gym to sweat it out, that’s going to have to be a pre-Covid mentality,” says McLaws. “Because it’s not good for your health anyway.”