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July 4 2022 2:38 AM ˚
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How to stay safe at the gym during COVID-19

Generally speaking, it is rare for pathogens, especially viruses, to be transmitted via sweat, but there are still some things you can do to better protect yourself while working out. (Photo: Shutterstock)
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AMMAN — Before the development of the COVID vaccine, Jordan closed many facilities and businesses, including gyms. The principle behind the closures was to reduce the spread of the virus by limiting contact between people. اضافة اعلان

Currently, 34.6 percent of Jordan’s population is fully vaccinated, leading to businesses reopening. However, even while vaccinated and following safety protocols, there is still a risk of infection, especially with the spread of new virus variants. 
With that being said, some things can be done to help reduce that risk, especially when it comes to the gym.

Risk at the gym

Going to the gym regularly is an excellent way to improve your physical and mental health. However, sharing communal gym equipment can increase your risk of acquiring COVID or other illnesses. 

Pathogens are often microscopic infectious agents that can enter our bodies and make us sick. Of all the forms of transmission, bodily fluids are the most common mode of transfer. 

Generally speaking, it is rare for pathogens, especially viruses, to be transmitted via sweat, which is a common bodily fluid produced at the gym.
Sweat is a mixture of water and salt that serve the purpose of cooling down our bodies, but sweat also contains oils, dead skin, and normal flora (natural and relatively safe bacteria residing on the skin), which can provide nutrients for other, more pathogenic, bacteria.

Similarly, as we breathe, we exhale water droplets that have the potential to carry pathogens, especially viruses. 

It is estimated that during exercises in which your heart rate reaches 140 beats per minute, the amount of water lost is roughly 60-70 mL/hr. Increased aerosolized water droplets, combined with poor ventilation, can potentially increase the risk of viral transmission.

Here are ways to stay safe at the gym:
Wash your hands regularly and sanitizing

The health benefits of regularly washing your hands have been continuously well documented. However, what may be underestimated is the impact washing your hands with soap and water has on protection against COVID-19. 

Soap is a common everyday item with a hydrophilic (water-loving) and a hydrophobic (water-fearing) part. Many viruses, including the COVID virus, have a phospholipid bilayer. A phospholipid bilayer is a layer that surrounds the genetic material within the virus. 

A phospholipid is made up of a hydrophilic head and tails that are hydrophobic, and when arranged in a bilayer (two layers), the heads form the exterior while the tails fill the space in between. 

When soap and water interact with the phospholipid bilayer, the hydrophobic part of the soap will force its way into the space that contains the tails and rupture the surface releasing the material contained inside, effectively ‘killing’ the virus. 

Once the virus is ruptured, the hydrophilic parts of soap will be attracted to the running water and help remove the remaining fragments of the virus from your hands. 

If you cannot wash your hands regularly, using an alcohol-based sanitizer is great for easy and quick use between gym equipment.
Similarly, consider carrying spray disinfectants or sanitizers and disposable tissues to wipe equipment before use, ensuring that the sanitizer dries before use. 

Avoid touching your face

With or without COVID, you should always avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands, especially when using shared items. 
This is because if you are infected, the fluids that are transferred from your facial orifices to your hands may contain pathogens, including COVID, which then would be transferred to equipment. 

Similarly, if you touch contaminated objects, pathogens can be transferred to your hands, entering your body via your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Skip the locker room

The goal is reducing transmission is achieved by reducing contact. Locker rooms are just another source of shared objects that may be contaminated. This can include door handles, faucets, and the lockers themselves. 
So, instead of changing at the gym, come to the gym ready to go and limit the amount of stuff you bring in with you.

Wear a face mask

The importance of surgical face masks has been well established throughout the pandemic. They serve a significant role in partially preventing water droplets that may contain the virus from being inhaled. 

Recent studies suggest that the N95 face mask is superior to surgical face masks because it can prevent smaller droplets from being inhaled. 
However, sources vary on guidelines for wearing masks while exercising. 
On the one hand, it will reduce the number of water droplets inhaled and exhaled. On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that people should not wear masks while exercising due to difficulty breathing, and the moisture collected on the mask may become a breeding ground for other microorganisms. 

They instead suggest the physical distance between you and others in the gym to be at least one meter. 
Regardless, follow your local gym’s protocols for safety and if they do not require a mask while exercising, still wear one when walking around or entering the gym. 

Avoid busy hours

To maintain safe distancing, especially when not wearing a mask during exercise, learn the gym patterns. Make a note of busy hours and try to avoid them. 
If you are a part of a group workout, consider switching or asking if smaller class sizes are available.

Ask about safety

Call ahead or ask any trainers, coaches, or managers about their health policies. Ensure that they are regularly disinfecting their equipment and maintaining a clean and healthy environment.
Additionally, encourage proper ventilation throughout the gym. If it is possible, open windows and doors to improve airflow the reduce the viral load.

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