Entry limits, distance, and increased disinfection – these are only some of the realities of fitness clubs and gyms during the pandemic. Experts emphasise that the sanitary guidelines, which have been introduced in Poland, ensure the safety of people who use these facilities. This is also confirmed by the data of foreign organisations from those countries that apply the same safety rules as Poland: the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the USA and England among clients of sports and recreational facilities is a fraction of a per mille. According to an infectious disease specialist, this can be explained by the increased sanitary regime in clubs, the higher immunity level among active people and the fact that when we are sick, we avoid physical exertion.
Similar safety rules have been implemented in other countries, e.g. England or the United States, where organisations associating sports facilities have analysed customer visits in terms of COVID-19. According to the data presented by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) and MXM, within three months of the reopening of sports facilities there were nearly 50 million visits registered. Among all visits, only 0.002% were visits of customers with a positive COVID-19 test result. In England, in the first three weeks after the resumption of fitness clubs’ activity, ukactive organisation registered only 17 clients with coronavirus for over 8 million visits, which is 0.0002%.
– Such a low percentage of visits by COVID-19 positive customers in fitness clubs is most likely related to the fact that we usually give up training when we feel bad. This results from a very simple reason – we are weakened and exercising in such a condition is simply uncomfortable. We instinctively avoid physical exertion. In this way, we significantly reduce the risk of virus transmission, more or less consciously. It is worth noting that the risk of infection in the case of COVID-19 is significantly greater when having contact with a sick person who has symptoms than with an asymptomatically infected person – emphasises Ernest Kuchar, Ph.D., infectious disease specialist and sports doctor.
Analyses by scientists from Bond University and the University of Sydney show that the risk of coronavirus infection from asymptomatic people is 0.0-2.2%. In contrast, the risk of infection in the presence of symptoms is 0.8-15.4%.
- It is worth remembering that sports facilities that comply with the current Chief Sanitary Inspectorate’s guidelines are not places of increased epidemic risk. In gyms or fitness clubs, we can easily apply increased hygiene standards. The number of people using these facilities is strictly calculated. Frequent disinfection of hands and sports equipment after each use effectively breaks the contact path of coronavirus transmission. Keeping the minimum distance of 1.5 meters during exercise reduces the risk of droplet infection, especially since you don't talk much during exercise, and it is during talking that droplets of airway secretion are formed, constituting an infectious material. In the current epidemic situation, taking up physical activity in sports facilities brings much more benefits than health risks – our expert points out.
Each session of moderate to high intensity training stimulates the immune system. Exercise increases the number of white cells in the blood. It is them that are responsible for antiviral and antibacterial immunity.
– Scientific research confirms that regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing upper respiratory tract infections by as much as 30%. An active lifestyle also plays a significant role in the context of preventing the development of diseases of affluence that plague our “sedentary lifestyle” society, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver or obesity, which are also risk factors for developing respiratory diseases, including severe course of COVID-19. Therefore, especially now, during the fall and winter flu season, we should take particular care of our health, and physical activity is one of the elements of prevention that we should remember about – summarises Dr Kuchar.
Regular exercise is important for building immunity and vitality of the body. It is much easier to be motivated in this regard with the support of a trainer or a group. As a result, as research shows, when following sanitary recommendations, fitness clubs not only do not generate additional risk, but also act in aid of health, being “health centres” that create conditions for the natural increase of immunity.
From Saturday, 10 October 2020, all gyms and fitness clubs are subject to sanitary rules in the yellow and red zones, where there should be 7 or 10 square meters of the sports facility area per one customer. However, there are more rules and, as representatives of sports facilities argue, they are all implemented: For Poles, health remains one of the most important values in life. Physical activity is an important factor positively affecting our health, wellbeing, and immunity. Therefore, we make every effort to ensure that during the pandemic, exercising in fitness clubs is comfortable and safe. We operate in accordance with the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate’s recommendations; we have increased the frequency of cleaning services and surface disinfection; we also ensure adequate air circulation. Clubs have been equipped with hand and sports equipment disinfectants. Our employees have been properly trained in the field of sanitary safety, and they also constantly remind our customers of the applicable recommendations. In addition, there are special markings in the facilities that indicate distances, remind about social distance and disinfecting hands and sports equipment. It is very important that we all follow these rules. Our experience so far shows that the introduced solutions work – says Tomasz Groń, Managing Director at Benefit Systems, Fitness Branch, responsible for Zdrofit, Fabryka Formy and Fitness Academy brands.