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Older man with grey hair using the shoulder press machine at the gym

Going to the gym in the New Year? Here's what to expect

If you've made a New Year's resolution to get fit, you may have signed up for a gym membership or class. However, even though gyms will be open, things may not be quite as you expected. Personal trainer Nicola Addison tells you what you need to know.

Leisure facilities have been working their socks off to create a safe environment, but it's understandable that some customers may still be worried about COVID infection. It is therefore critical to recognise the myths regarding exercise and COVID-19, to understand how leisure venues have adapted to keep you safe, and to know what you can do to help safeguard your health.

Your gym FAQs answered

  1. How long will COVID-19 stay on gym equipment?
  2. Although the COVID-19 virus can stay on some surfaces for up to two or three days, it's important to remember that these surfaces are easily cleaned with common household disinfectants (which kill the virus). All venues have drastically stepped up their cleaning protocols during the pandemic.

  3. Can COVID-19 be spread through sweat?
  4. There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through sweat.

  5. Can COVID-19 be transmitted in areas that are hot and humid?
  6. There is no evidence that COVID-19 is more transmittable in a hot, humid environment than any other. The best way to protect yourself against the virus is through social distancing and frequent handwashing, and the use of anti-viral/bacterial hand gels.

  7. Do shared water fountains pose an increased risk of COVID-19?
  8. As long as all touch points are cleaned before and after use, water fountains are safe.

  9. Should I wear a mask or gloves in the gym?
  10. People should NOT wear masks while exercising, as these may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably. Sweating can make a mask become wet, which makes it difficult to breathe and promotes the growth of microorganisms. The most important preventative measure during exercise is to maintain physical distance from others.

    Although gloves are useful in some circumstances, in a leisure facility using hand sanitiser and wiping down equipment before and after use is more appropriate.

  11. Can COVID-19 be transmitted in the water of a swimming pool?
  12. There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through water, hot tubs or spas.

  13. Does air conditioning raise the risk of transmitting COVID-19?
  14. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has advised that the risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus is extremely low.

Cleaning a running machine with spray and wipe, wearing gloves

Gyms have made great efforts to make their venues safe to use, including implementing new cleaning regimes and social distancing.

What you can expect at the gym

Your leisure venue will likely look and feel a little different on your first visit.

  • The number of users inside your gym at any one time will be limited. Many venues will now require you to have a pre-booked appointment to attend, even for a gym visit.
  • Depending on your venue's setup, there could be security guards in place at entrances and reception desks.
  • There may be a queue management system in place on entry to allow for social distancing.
  • All venues have massively increased their cleaning protocols, and many have purchased additional cleaning equipment such as fogging guns.
  • Class times will be staggered on the timetable, allowing a 10+ minute gap between classes. This time allows for appropriate cleaning to occur.
  • As with everywhere, there has been a huge emphasis on social distancing. Venues will have implemented one-way systems to manage user flow around their buildings.
  • There will be numerous sanitising spray and wipe stations around your venue allowing you to wipe down equipment both before and after use.

What you can do to help

There are ways you can help keep yourself and others safe at the gym.

  • Try and arrive in your sports kit so you don't need to change.
  • Remember to wipe down equipment both before and after use.
  • To avoid disappointment, before your first visit check with your venue regarding access. Do you need to make a booking?
  • Lastly, be patient and follow the venue's rules. They are in place to keep you and others safe.

Always follow the Government's guidelines on self-isolation and social distancing – see gov.uk/coronavirus for more information and the latest updates.

As a Register of Exercise Professionals-accredited training provider, Nicola consults for leading health and fitness brands and regularly contributes to press publications.

Find out more about Nicola Addison, or read more about Healthspan's health experts.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible, supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.