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Safety / Injuries | Special Population

Coronavirus and the Gym: How to Keep Clients Safe & Healthy

In late 2019, news of a novel coronavirus—COVID-19, which stands for “coronavirus disease 2019”—began to emerge. Though it initially appeared in Wuhan, China, this virus has since spread to many other countries as well. The United States is one. 

What do you need to know about the coronavirus outbreak when it comes to working out at the gym? More specifically, how can you keep clients safe and healthy amidst concerns of this or other infectious diseases, preferably without scaring them or causing them to give up on their fitness goals?

Coronavirus and the Gym: What Health Officials Recommend 

While the concern over COVID-19 appears to be growing, there are a number of actions you can take to help protect public health and reduce the spread of the coronavirus. These can be broken down into four basic categories: environmental, cleaning practices, suggestions for staff, and client-based recommendations.

Environmental

The key to keeping your gym safe and healthy for your clients is to make it harder for germs to survive. Here are a few ways to achieve this goal.

  • Install “Wash Your Hands” signs. Washing your hands regularly (with soap) is one of the most effective ways to keep the coronavirus from spreading. Yet, one YouGov poll reports that roughly 40 percent of Americans don’t take this necessary step after using the bathroom. Installing a sign in your gym’s restrooms can help remind them to take this important action.
  • Install hand sanitizer stations. It’s also helpful to install hand sanitizer stations in various spots around the gym. Will hand sanitizer actually prevent you from getting the coronavirus? The CDC reports that, while it isn’t as good as soap and water, using a sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol is the next best option. It won’t kill all the germs on the hands, but it can help reduce them.
  • Install disinfectant wipe dispensers. Because multiple people use gym equipment, it’s important to clean it often. Installing disinfectant wipe dispensers is one solution. This enables staff and clients to easily wipe it down before and after use.

Cleaning Practices 

The World Health Organization (WHO) says they’re not sure how long COVID-19 can survive on surfaces. However, the estimate is anywhere from a few hours to several days. How do you keep these and other germs from spreading? 

  • Wipe down gym equipment often. Because the coronavirus has a long incubation period, it’s impossible to tell who may be infected. Though clients should be encouraged to wipe down gym equipment before and after use, it is also beneficial to have staff perform regular cleanings throughout the day as well. Be sure to pay special attention to the areas where clients typically place their hands.
  • Do a more thorough cleaning at night. If the gym is busy during the day, it may be difficult to do a good clean. In that case, save this type of thorough cleaning for the nighttime, when your facility isn’t as full. 

Helping Staff Reduce Coronavirus Spread

Since the virus spreads from person to person, educating staff as to how to stop this spread is key. This includes:

  • Tell them to stay home if they feel sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that businesses “actively encourage sick employees to stay home.” This begins with creating policies that make this okay. It also involves helping them recognize coronavirus symptoms. The WHO shares that the most common are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Other flu-like symptoms may also appear, such as aches and pain, sore throat, congestion, and diarrhea. 
  • Encourage the practice of good health habits. Help your staff keep the virus at bay by reminding them to wash their hands regularly. Also, clean all gym equipment before and after training sessions. Staff meetings and memos are good ways to reinforce these habits.
  • Allow your personal trainers to go outside the gym. Giving your personal training staff permission to train their clients off the premises may make clients feel more comfortable until the coronavirus spread slows. Trainers can organize boot camps and other outdoor workouts anywhere, from the gym parking lot to local parks or even the city bike trails. Be a bit flexible until the virus is more under control. You can reduce risks while still keeping clients active.

Client-Based Recommendations

While you can’t make clients wash their hands or use sanitizing solution, there are still a few actions you can take to help them reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus. 

  • Encourage them to engage in healthy habits. The healthier clients are, the better their ability to avoid becoming a victim of the outbreak. This means eating healthy foods, exercising regularly (which also reduces inflammation), getting enough rest, and watching their stress.
  • Remind them to “wash your hands.” This reminder may be by putting up signs or it could be simply by being a good role model. When they see your staff wash their own hands regularly, they may be more likely to do the same.
  • Remind them to wipe down equipment. Getting rid of the virus is the only way to keep it from spreading. So, remind your clients to wash down the gym equipment before and after use.
  • Recommend at-home workouts. If a client is concerned about the coronavirus, suggest that they work out at home. Create a program they can use without equipment or encourage them to get more active with their kids. At least until the virus spread slows.

If Your Client Starts to Feel Sick

If a client mentions that they feel sick, what do you do? First, it might be helpful to educate them about the symptoms of coronavirus. Also, remind them that it is flu season so feeling ill doesn’t automatically mean they have COVID-19. 

Either way, encourage them to follow CDC recommendations and stay home so they don’t infect anyone else. And if they start to feel worse or have an underlying medical condition, suggest that they seek immediate medical treatment.

If they question whether they should continue to work out when sick, talk to them about when it’s okay to exercise and when they should rest. Namely, if their symptoms are above the neck (runny nose, sore throat, or congestion), it’s okay to sweat it out. But if their symptoms are below the neck (body aches, coughing, or fever), they should probably take some time off.

Should You Suspend Workout Classes Due to the Coronavirus Infection?

With the NBA suspending the regular season after a player tested positive for the coronavirus, it may make you wonder whether you should do the same. Should you suspend all your workout classes and group exercise offerings?

Currently, there is no public health recommendation to take this type of action. That said, you may want to suspend your classes if attendance falls or if you just want to be on the safe side. This is called “social distancing,” which involves increasing the distance between people to stop the spread of the virus.

What We Know About the Coronavirus Spread

The WHO explains that the coronavirus “can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth.” These respiratory droplets are released when a person with the virus breaths out or coughs.

If someone inhales the droplets directly, they can contract the virus. They can also contract it by touching a surface or object that has been infected, then touching their own eyes, nose, or mouth.

The CDC adds that someone infected with the coronavirus is most contagious when symptoms are most present. Additionally, older adults and individuals who have serious chronic medical conditions are at the greatest risk of coming down with COVID-19. 

Research has also found that the average time between catching the virus and symptoms appearing is 5.1 days. Yet, sometimes this length of time is longer, with most people contracting COVID-19 (97.5 percent) doing so within 11.5 days.

The Bottom Line on Going to the Gym During the Developing Coronavirus Situation

In the end, is it safe for clients to work out at the gym until the coronavirus is more contained? The consensus seems to be that, as long as certain cleaning and hygiene processes are followed, it is. However, if there is any concern over this whatsoever, it may be more beneficial to offer other ways to work on their fitness until they’re more comfortable returning to a public environment.

Keep in mind also that, while exercising is a great way to help clients create a body they love, there are many other ways you can help them truly transform. For instance, the ISSA offers a Transformation Specialist program that teaches you how to better inspire your clients to make lasting changes to improve their mental, physical, and emotional health. Check it out!

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