Over the last several months, there has been a great deal of debate surrounding the safety of gyms and fitness classes, due to the potential airborne nature of the virus. While health experts have remained cautiously skeptical, warning that exercising in an indoor space around others could potentially expose you to the virus, the fitness industry has attempted to promote a message that there is little to no risk. On Monday, the CDC weighed in and confirmed that fitness classes may not be safe, after all. Read on to find out why, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
Fitness Classes Have Been Shown to Spread COVID
“It is possible that COVID-19 may spread through the droplets and airborne particles that are formed when a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes,” the CDC writes in their newly updated guidelines. “There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes),” they continue. “In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.”
Cases have been traced back to fitness classes specifically, not just gyms. “During 24 days in February and March, 112 people were infected with the Covid-19 virus in South Korea after participating in or associating with participants in Zumba classes, according to a sobering new epidemiological study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases,” reports the New York Times. “The study, which traces the start of the illness cluster back to a one-day instructor workshop held in mid-February, raises crucial questions about the risks of infection during group exercise classes and whether and how such workouts might be made safer.”
“It is thought that hyperventilation caused by severe exercise in a confined space may be the reason for the extremely high attack rate,” says Dr. Ji-Young Rhee, a professor at Dankook University College of Medicine and senior author of the study.
Gyms are Taking Precautions but There is Still Risk, Say Experts
Gyms have been hit hard during the pandemic, with a handful—including 24 Hour Fitness, Gold’s Gym and Town Sports International—being forced to file for bankruptcy. The CDC’s changes came on the same day that a study conducted by MXM in partnership with the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), made headlines for attempting to get customers back into the clubs. The groups released a study maintaining that health clubs are “safe and are not contributing to the spread of COVID-19” based on the conclusions of a study—however, experts in public health and research methods say the methodologically flawed and open to conflicts of interest.
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Paul J. Lavrakas, a research psychologist who reviewed MXM’s data and methodology, analyzed the data collected, telling The Washington Post that the data and how it was interpreted by Blair McHaney, MXM’s chief executive, was “Unfounded, unsupported, irresponsible.”
Nonetheless, gyms are reopening across America, with safety measures in place, including decreased capacity and increased sanitation. Many, however, are have paused their fitness classes, out of an abundance of caution.
As for yourself, consider skipping a fitness class, and to stay safe during this pandemic, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Update 9/22/20: After publication of this story, the CDC deleted its guidance from its website about the airborne spread of COVID-19, saying they posted it by mistake. “A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website. CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted,” Jason McDonald, a CDC spokesman, said in a response emailed to CNN. Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, confirmed the very next day that the coronavirus is indeed airborne—see here for his remarks.