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What is the future of groups exercising?
Thu 10 09 2020

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Back in February, more than one hundred people were infected by COVID-19 in South Korea after participating in a Zumba class. A study that was conducted to trace back how the virus spread in situations like this one, raised questions about whether these workouts will be safe from now on. The study found much useful data that helps understand the spread of COVID-19 and similar viruses in such sports classes. In classes that had a high number of students infection spread faster and reached a higher number of people. On the other hand, in classes that had 5 or fewer students, even if the instructor was infected, there is a high chance that zero cases would result.

The study also suggests guidance and cautions for people who are looking forward to going back to the gym and practice a similar type of classes like yoga, dance or even boot-camp. Working out in the gym poses a high vulnerability to infectious disease. Therefore, limiting the size of the class and adopting low-intensity exercise (as it requires little to no heavy respiration) can help lower the probability of catching the virus.

Another thing that is essential in rooms where group exercises take place is good air circulation. To conduct safe indoor group exercises you need sufficient ventilation. However, the ventilation should be provided by outdoor air and not recirculated air, or else everyone in the gym will be breathing the same air. Saying so implies that if there is one person infected in the whole gymnasium, there is a higher chance of being infected, even if the group class is of 5 or fewer people, and even none of them is infected.

The key to proper air circulation to reduce the risk of infection from virus particles that float in the air is that your ventilation system provides 10 liters of outdoor air per person in a room and per second. An important rule to remember is; the more the people in a room, the more outside air is needed to be flowing in and out. So if you are going back to the gym, and especially to a group exercise class, ask about the ventilation system found there. Make sure that the air conditioning provided flows in the air from the outside, otherwise request that all doors and windows be opened.

Even with such conditions, social distancing is still important. For this reason, classes need to be small in size, smaller than before in order to make social distancing during a workout possible. This will also decrease the spread of viruses that happen virally when a big number of people are breathing heavily in a single environment.

Furthermore, a face mask might also become a part of your working out routine. These items could be required in gyms and fitness studios depending on the facility rules and the local regulations.

Finally, moving group classes from indoor to outdoor environment (when this is practical and possible), can be useful in reducing infections. If your gym offers such conditions, make sure that the classes are not conducted between buildings or high walls as this can encourage the circulation of breath among people.

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