Stay Safe From Germs at the Gym With This Essential Checklist

For many, the gym is a motivational space, filled with social interactions and endless workout options. While home workouts are a good alternative, some prefer the gym environment—and its energy—to keep them consistently exercising. Whether you thrive in the setting, use class schedules to stay accountable or simply don't have the space to make home workouts work for you, giving up the gym can feel like a setback and a barrier to success for some.

These days, though, health concerns regarding crowded indoor spaces could be enough to make you rethink your gym plans. While your gym or studio should be a place where you feel comfortable and safe while you get your sweat on, how can you know your gym is taking all of the necessary steps to combat the spread of cold, flu, coronavirus and other germs? Asking the right questions and being prepared will help reduce your risk of illness and allow you to enjoy your workouts with peace of mind.

How Is Your Gym Keeping You Safe?

Sergio Pedemonte, founder of Your House Fitness, recommends calling ahead and asking three important questions before heading to your favorite workout venue.
  1. Does the gym have crowd-control measures such as a reservation system? "Many gyms [now require guests] to reserve their workout time slot," he explains. "This helps keep the gym at a safer capacity and allows social distancing to occur more naturally."
  2. Is the gym well-ventilated? "See if doors and windows are kept open, [and ask if the] air conditioning is on," he suggests. According to the CDC, facilities should "adjust the ventilation so that the maximum amount of fresh air is delivered to occupied spaces while maintaining the humidity at 40 to 60 percent." You can also ask if they have done anything to further ensure better air quality and decrease germ dissemination.  
  3. Does the gym schedule equipment cleanings in addition to guests cleaning equipment before and after use? "They should have staff wiping down equipment at regular intervals," he advises. Guests should also be sanitizing each piece of equipment after they use it, so it is a good idea to ensure the gym readily provides cleaning equipment such as disinfecting wipes or spray. "You can't be too cautious [about this]," Pedemonte says.
With guidelines varying from state to state, one additional question to consider is what is your gym’s mask requirement? Some states require you wear a mask throughout your workout, while others only require them when you are moving from place to place in the facility. Make sure you are comfortable with the requirements for your individual facility. Also, consider that the World Health Organization says wearing masks during exercise is not necessary, but social distancing during activity is still very important. 
Your gym should be following CDC guidelines, as well as protocol for your state. When you arrive, look around the gym to be sure there is plenty of hand sanitizer and disinfectant available, and that staff are wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines. The staff should be setting the example for gym patrons to follow.  

Before You Go

  • Do a symptom check. If you aren't feeling well, stay home to avoid spreading germs to others.
  • Call the gym to ask about safety procedures and to see if they offer a reservation system. If no reservation system exists, consider going during less busy hours, such as early morning or late evening.
  • Invest in a breathable mask. Look for a lightweight mask made from sweat-wicking material that allows for airflow to make exercise more comfortable while keeping you safe. No matter your gym’s requirements, it’s worth finding a breathable mask to have on hand in case of new regulations or to wear out the door after your session without feeling suffocated by sweat.  
  • Pack a bottle of hand sanitizer and wipes and have them readily available.
  • Bring your own sweat towel, water bottle and smaller pieces of equipment such as an exercise mat or resistance band.

While You're There

Dr. Tina Gupta, co-founder of The Lifestyle Cure, recommends the following safety measures during your gym time.
  • Once inside, use either hand sanitizer or wash your hands with soap and water immediately.
  • Stay six feet away from other gym-goers. Practice social distancing as much as possible.
  • Spray each piece of equipment before you use it. Let the spray sit on the machine for a minute before wiping it down, and then let it dry completely before beginning an exercise. This allows the disinfectant to do its job properly.
  • Do not touch your face at all while inside the gym. Use your clean towel from home to wipe your face.
  • Wash your hands again with soap and water before exiting the gym.

When You Leave

  • Don't hang around to socialize after your workout. It's best to get home and change out of your gym clothes.
  • As soon as you get home, remove all clothing to wash. Don't forget to include your mask!
  • Thoroughly clean any equipment or supplies you brought with you, including your gym bag.
The good news is that no matter your comfort level, there are plenty of workout options available. You can exercise at home on your own, with a trusted friend in the neighborhood or six feet apart from strangers at the gym. No matter your choice, assess the current conditions in your community and take precautions to be sure you are staying safe and healthy.