With Gyms & Yoga Centres Opening, Doctors Advise on What Precautions You Must Take

Under the third phase of unlocking the COVID-19 lockdown, the government has allowed gyms and yoga institutes outside containment zones, to function from August 5.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also issued detailed guidelines on preventive measures that need to be taken at these centres to prevent the spread of the virus.

Here’s what the fitness centres have been instructed to do:

Before opening

  • The equipment should be placed at a distance of 6-ft from each other.
  • The premises shall be regularly disinfected using clinically approved disinfectants.
  • Arrangements have to be made for specific pathways for entering and exiting exercise areas within closed spaces using a floor or wall markings.
  • Limit the number of staff and members within the general gymnasium floor.
  • Spas, saunas, steam baths and swimming pools shall remain closed.

After opening

  • Restricting the number of persons allowed in a group fitness class based on the size of the room and the nature of the fitness activity.
  • The temperature of air-conditioning should be in the range of 24-30 degrees Celsius, and relative humidity should be in the range of 40-70%.
  • Once the center has opened for service, ensure sessions are tailored to include only exercises that do not require physical contact between the trainer and the clients.
  • Check the oxygen saturation level of each member using a pulse oximeter. Those having oxygen saturation below 95% should not be allowed to exercise.
  • Persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years will not be permitted.

If you choose to go to the gym, Dr Suryakanth Pandit, a general physician based in Mumbai, and Dr Siddharth Singh, who is based in Chennai, have some tips for limiting your potential exposure to the virus.

Aggressive social distancing

“It is important to ensure that you are always 6 feet away on all four sides, from the next person, and don’t spend more than 5 minutes talking to one person. Talking with a mask can cause accumulation of germs, and can cause it to fall off the nose while speaking,” says Dr Pandit.

Dr Siddharth Singh, who is a burns specialist, has been on COVID duty at Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital, Chennai since April. He advises those choosing to go to gyms and yoga classes to consider everyone around them as COVID-19 positive.

“When that is kept in mind, eventually the habits of social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands kick in naturally. Considering the number of cases in every city, and the speed at which the virus is spreading, it is best to avoid crowded spaces,” he says.

Avoid Air Conditioned rooms

Choose working out at gyms that have good air ventilation, or have an outdoor setup.

“Gymnasiums are usually kept cold as they are located in metro cities with hot weather. But, when there is no air circulation, the virus can spread from one person to another rapidly,” says Dr Pandit.

Carry Personal Protective Equipment

Carry hand sanitiser and spare masks.

Dr Singh says, “The equipment in gyms are used by multiple people. Though the centers are instructed to keep them clean before and after every use, it is good for people to wash hands with soap or sanitise them after a workout. A surgical mask can be worn while working out as it helps the user to breathe freely. But if you start sweating too much, remember to safely dispose of the mask, and wear a fresh one.”

It is also important for gym-goers to carry their exercise mats and water bottles.

“In gyms, there are some common provisions available to drink water or to stretch and workout. Since this can be used by multiple people, it is better for you to carry extra water, and a personal exercise mat,” says Dr Pandit.

Dr Singh Has one final piece of advice. “You can take all the precautions you want, but before deciding to go to the gym, think about those who are living in your immediate circle. If you are living with elderly people, young children, or a person with co-morbidities, re-consider your option of going to the gym or yoga centre. Your behaviour can put others at risk.”

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

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