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Is it safe to go back to the gym?

A woman wearing a mask in a gym does a one-armed plank with hand weights.

Staying active is one of the best things you can do for your health. It can help you manage pandemic stress too. If you prefer working out in a gym, you might wonder if that's safe now that more people are fully vaccinated.

Of course, you'll want to follow any local guidelines. But if you are thinking about going to the gym and you're not fully vaccinated, here's what to know.

What are the risks?

Going to a gym can increase your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred at some facilities, CDC reports.

COVID-19 spreads mainly through respiratory droplets released into the air when someone coughs, sneezes, talks or breathes, for example. You are more at risk from these droplets when you have close contact with other people, which may be hard to avoid in an indoor gym. And people tend to breathe harder when they work out. So their droplets can travel farther.

Also, many different people use the same equipment in gyms. While it is less common to get COVID-19 by touching a surface with the virus on it, it can happen.

Take precautions if you go

If you decide to go to a gym or fitness center and you're not fully vaccinated, take precautions to reduce your risk. Here's what CDC and other experts suggest:

  • Avoid going at peak hours when the most people are there.
  • Choose a gym that requires visitors and staff to mask up. (Bring an extra mask in case one gets moist from sweat.)
  • Stay 6 feet apart. That's about two arms' lengths. Pay close attention to this in areas where people tend to crowd up, such as weight rooms, locker rooms and check-in areas.
  • Choose rooms with good ventilation. Gyms with high ceilings and open windows and doors are better choices.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after you use fitness equipment or machines.
  • Wipe shared equipment down with cleansing wipes before and after each use.
  • Try to limit strenuous indoor activities, like running on a treadmill or an indoor track. Do high-intensity activities outdoors instead.
  • Keep your gym workout brief. Your risk goes up the longer you stay.

Exercise your options

What if you don't feel safe going to a gym quite yet? You can still get a good workout. Try walking or cycling outdoors. Lift some hand weights at home. Or see if your gym offers any virtual classes. The main thing is to keep moving as safely as you can!

To learn more about getting a move on, visit our Fitness and Exercise health topic center.

Reviewed 9/7/2021

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