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Is it safe for gyms to reopen? GMB’s Dr Hilary doesn’t think so

Caroline Allen
·Contributor
·3-min read

The debate about whether or not it’s safe to reopen gyms in England following the coronavirus lockdown has been ongoing.

Dr Hilary Jones weighed in on the topic on 9 July, issuing a warning to those looking to return to the gym as soon as possible.

Dr Hilary spoke on Good Morning Britain about the risks associated with re-opening gyms, warning that it’s too soon and could possibly bring on another spike of COVID-19 cases.

He said that gyms are more of a risk than pubs because people exercising expel more breath and sweat than they would do in other situations.

Read more: How will swimming work when restrictions are lifted?

“The thing is, if you’re in a gym, and we’ve all been to gyms, if you’re doing aerobic work then you’re breathing very fast,” Dr Hilary said.

“Anything that’s in your nose and throat is being expelled much more explosively than if you’re sitting quietly in a pub.”

Presenter, Ben Shepherd, was in favour of the re-opening of gyms, adamant that new protocols put in place would mean that they could open safely.

Dr Hilary wasn’t convinced, stating that it would be very difficult for gyms to keep up with protocols because of the nature of the exercise within them.

“You don’t want 30 people on spin bikes where you can touch the person next to you,” he said. “Breathing, spluttering. That’s not what you want.”

He also said he believed that gym equipment would need to be thoroughly cleaned after every use in order to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Read more: Exercise could have anti-ageing effects on the body

These thoughts have been echoed by Dr Claudia Pastide, GP at Babylon: “My personal feeling is that exercising outdoors should currently take preference over indoor exercise. Exercise in a gym often involves breathing out heavily, touching equipment that has been touched by others and being in (often quite close) contact with others.

“All these things increase the risk of spreading and catching COVID-19.”

As Dr Hilary mentioned, there are things you can do to reduce the risk, but Dr Claudia warned that “a significant reduction in risk is not guaranteed”.

“If someone’s at an increased risk from falling seriously unwell with COVID-19, I’d recommend avoiding gyms for now and focussing on ways to keep fit outdoors or at home.

“It is important to remember that even if you are not at an increased risk or you personally accept the risk of yourself catching COVID-19, many people with the infection show no symptoms. So if you go to the gym, it is important to do everything you can to reduce your risk of spreading COVID-19 as you may be that person that has it without knowing.”

Read more: More people are using exercise to manage their mental health

Much like many other businesses, gyms have been open about the actions their staff will be taking to avoid cases of COVID-19 at their establishments.

Nuffield Health have sent out a members’ update to confirm that “various social distancing and cleanliness protocols” will be put in place.

“Our cleaning teams have been keeping our 31 hospitals clean during the pandemic, so they have the expertise to keep our clubs hygienic and safe,” The gym chain confirmed.

In the meantime, Dr Hilary suggested using the opportunity to explore other types of exercise away from the gym.

“For some people, they will say ‘I’m going to take a sensible decision’ and they will go for a run down the street or in a park and that is going to be much safer than going to an indoor gym.”

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