When can gyms re-open?
It’s been over three months since our last gym session. Gyms closed their doors around mid-March to limit the spread of Covid-19. But with the coronavirus crisis now largely under control and the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions, people are eager to resume both their gym training regimes and the social interactions that are part and parcel of the gym experience.
In this post we look at some of the practical steps gyms are taking to make their environment safe for their staff and customers.
What is allowed currently
Outdoor activities for up to six people from different households, following social distancing guidelines, are allowed. Some gyms across the UK are already offering socially distanced fitness classes, and these can be anything from outdoor yoga to strength and conditioning classes. Sports that can be practised outdoors such as golf and tennis have been allowed for a while now.
Under the latest government guidance, gyms and swimming pools in England can now be used to train elite athletes, but remain closed to the general public.
What you can do from the 4th of July
The 4th of July is an important date as many businesses and venues across the country will be permitted to re-open and will be expected to follow Covid-19 Secure guidelines.
The advice specific to the health and fitness sector is that outdoor gyms can re-open, and when you are outside you can continue to meet in groups of up to six people from different households, observing social distancing guidelines.
However, indoor fitness and dance studios, indoor gyms and sports venues/facilities, including indoor swimming pools and spas, will remain closed for the time being whilst they implement the necessary measures to become sufficiently Covid-19 Secure.
What does Covid-19 Secure actually mean?
Before re-opening companies should confirm they have complied with the government’s guidance on managing the risk of Covid-19 by assessing the risks and implementing appropriate procedures. Specifically, companies should address the following five points:
- carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment and share the results with their employees
- develop cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures in line with government guidance
- take all reasonable steps to help people work from home
- take all reasonable steps to maintain a 2m distance in the workplace
- where people cannot be 2m apart, demonstrate they have done everything practical to manage transmission risk
So how does a gym become Covid-19 Secure?
Gyms are an absolute hotspot for bacteria. They are also particularly challenging locations in the fight against coronavirus, as the virus can spread more easily indoors compared to outdoors. Gyms by their very nature are indoor spaces where large numbers of people congregate and touch multiple surfaces, which can lead to cross contamination. And all the exercising causes heavy breathing, which can be yet another vector for the virus to spread.
Covid-19 virus particles can be infective for days on some metal and plastic surfaces. And as we also know the Covid-19 virus can passed in aerosols – through a cough, a sneeze or even a power scream.
Gyms and indoor sports facilities in general are working hard to satisfactorily demonstrate they are Covid-19 Secure and the key areas being addressed are hygiene and social distancing. Some of the practical steps they can implement include:
- display information to advise customers and staff of social distancing and cleanliness/hygiene protocols throughout the facility.
- train staff in these new protocols as operating a gym after the lockdown will be quite different
- introduce hand wipes/sanitisers in reception and other areas
- implement rigorous cleaning procedures, paying particular attention to high-contact touch points such as lift buttons or taps
- in addition to the regular cleaning, gym equipment and exercise mats should be cleaned after each and every use using appropriate virucidal disinfectants.
- install divider screens and/or appropriate distancing of reception staff
- equipment needs to be spaced out to help people follow social distancing guidelines. If this is not possible consider signposting every other piece of equipment as “Not available for use”
- items such as weights or water bottles should not be passed to/from instructors to customers, or between customers who are not in the same social bubble.
- leave sufficient time between classes to allow for cleaning between classes, and to avoid having people congregating in groups waiting for the previous class to finish.
Gyms will adapt to the new normal
During the lockdown there’s been a shift to outdoor exercise and anything that gets people out in nature is a good thing, but outdoor exercise cannot easily replace the range of facilities and training equipment that indoor sports centres can offer. With the appropriate hygiene measures in place, and respect for social distancing, there’s no reason why we can’t enjoy indoor gym sessions in the near future.