When can we expect gyms to reopen?

Catriona Harvey-Jenner
Photo credit: Mint Images - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

While it feels like we've been in lockdown forever, in actuality it has only been eight weeks. Still, two months is a long time to go without some of our most prized extra-curricular activities, like the pub, the cinema and the gym. So it's understandable that people are itching to find out when the likes of gyms will be reopening following the coronavirus crisis.

As it stands, there's no firm date, but the government has laid out a framework for how it gradually intends to release lockdown measures and return to some level of normality. In the 50-page document setting out their plans, the government said: "While reopening outdoor spaces and activities (subject to continued social distancing) comes earlier in the roadmap because the risk of transmission outdoors is significantly lower, it is likely that reopening indoor public spaces and leisure facilities (such as gyms and cinemas)... may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections."

As Dr Ravi Tomar, a GP at Portland Medical, explained to Cosmopolitan previously, "viruses can live on a surface outside the human body for several hours, [so] gym equipment is a prime culprit for picking up an illness."

While you'd hope that, when gyms do reopen, nobody who's feeling under-the-weather would go, you can't guarantee that would be the case.

Photo credit: Mint Images - Getty Images

"Unfortunately, many people do insist on pushing through for the sake of a workout, unwittingly exposing others to their germs," said the GP. And in an environment like the gym, that spells trouble. "Coughs and sneezes can spread droplets much further than you might think (up to 8 metres) and those droplets can remain in the air a good while afterwards," he said.

"Depending on whether the person before you has coughed onto their hands or worse, sneezed into the air, there can be moisture droplets containing a virus on anything from free-weights to elliptical handles or the buttons on the treadmill," Dr Tomar warned.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned

The government has set a provisional date of 4 July for reopening some of our beloved institutions, which may or may not include gyms. The document specifies: "The ambition at this step is to open at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, including personal care (such as hairdressers and beauty salons) hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation), public places (such as places of worship) and leisure facilities (like cinemas)."

So, no specific mention of gyms, but it may be the case that they come under 'personal care' or 'leisure facilities'. While July 4 has been stated as a guideline, before any measures can actually be lifted a five-point checklist must be fulfilled, so it may well be pushed back even further than that. The checklist includes:

  • The NHS must be able to cope and provide sufficient care
  • Evidence showing a sustained and consistent fall in daily death rates
  • Reliable data showing the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels
  • Confidence enough tests and PPE are at hand to use
  • Confidence any adjustments won’t trigger a second peak

One thing the government has done, however, is to remove the limit on how frequently people can exercise outside, meaning you're free to hit the park as many times a day as you fancy. A run in the morning, circuits at lunch, and a sunset stroll? Your wish is the government's command.

Photo credit: The Creative Drone - Getty Images

When gyms do reopen, along with social distancing measures remaining in place, gym-goers will have to make sure they're being extra vigilant with wiping down equipment, pointed out GP Dr Tomar. "Sadly, simply wiping the handles and surfaces won’t make a difference. To eliminate any droplets containing the virus, it’s essential that you’re using universal cleaning wipes that have antibacterial and antiviral properties," he said.

In the meantime, you'll just have to keep plugging away at those home workouts. Or better still, make the most of your favourite gym's online offering instead.

Dr Ravi Tomar is a GP at Portland Medical.

The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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