The truth about working out during the coronavirus outbreak

You've been told to do a few things for your health in 2020: get more exercise, and more recently — avoid large crowds. So, how do you follow this advice during the coronavirus outbreak? At this time, many people are still exercising outside of their homes. In Seattle, the current ground zero of the outbreak, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered on Sunday night, "Given the explosion of COVID-19 in our state and globally, I will sign a statewide emergency proclamation tomorrow to temporarily shut down restaurants, bars, and entertainment and recreational facilities." This proclamation applies to all large gyms, and smaller workout facilities are mostly following suit. It is expected similar policies will be applied across other cities and states in the U.S. as this goes on. 

For those gym businesses that are still open, most owners and employees are currently using extreme caution, including making additional efforts to limit class sizes and providing extra sanitization efforts in their facilities. Gregory Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic, notes that it's extremely important to keep good hygiene practices up if you do wander out and patronize a gym, especially if you're touching shared equipment (via The Wall Street Journal). He recommends using hand sanitizers on a regular basis while working out and washing your hands well as often as possible in addition to following the CDC guidelines for social distancing, which basically means standing six feet away from others. 

However, out of an abundance of caution, it's probably best to just avoid the gym altogether, and if the trend that started on the coasts and Europe continues, fitness facilities will close across the nation.

But it's public spaces themselves posing the risk right now

There's definitely a significant risk of transmission by coming together in large groups. So much risk, in fact, that large chains are closing doors across the nation, movie theaters included, as AMC just announced the shuttering of roughly 630 locations and 11,000 screens for a period of 6 to 12 weeks according to The Hollywood Reporter, and Regal Theaters soon followed suit (via The Hollywood Reporter). Fitness facilities that are still open will likely close soon, and even if they don't, you should avoid gathering in public.

President Trump issued new guidelines on Monday, March 16th addressing the coronavirus. "My administration is recommending that all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible, avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people, avoid discretionary travel, and avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants, and public food courts," he said. That means that even if you skip the gym, you probably shouldn't go workout with all your friends. This was announced on the same day that San Francisco released new shelter in place guidelines, preventing the possibility of these gatherings as an option for this California community (via KQED).

It's a difficult situation for everyone, as we want to balance personal and public health while also supporting our local business owners and employees through trying times. If you would like to support your gyms while social distancing at home, consider purchasing gift cards or gym merchandise online. Keep paying membership dues even if you cannot attend class. Sign up for virtual coaching or workout routines you can do from home.

Exercise can help build immunity

It's understandable if you don't feel comfortable at a gym, but it shouldn't stop you from working out — in fact, exercise is more important now than ever. According to Tony Maloney, the fitness center manager at National Institute for Fitness and Sport in Indianapolis, it's crucial to work out right now because it can actually help boost your body's ability to fight off illness. "When endorphin levels go up, it can counteract the stress response that is so damaging to the immune system," he says. HelpGuide reminds us that exercise is especially beneficial for mental health, so make sure you don't quarantine yourself away from a good workout.

You could definitely consider alternate workout options, like jogging outdoors. Outdoor sunshine provides additional benefits to our health, providing necessary vitamin D that boosts mood in as little as five to 15 minutes a day (via Healthline). When outdoors focus on individual activities, not shared touch surfaces for now. Many people enjoy working out at home too, and there are many different fitness apps and videos available to guide your routine. Leisure Opportunities reports that Planet Fitness is one of many in the industry that has begun offering at-home streaming workouts for free. 

If you do get sick, though, then you should probably take a break. While there is no specific guidance for coronavirus and exercise, doctors from Harvard Health generally advise against vigorous activity with a fever.