Health and fitness experts weigh in on exercising in gyms amid the pandemic

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) – You may have seen reasons people should avoid gyms during the pandemic, but health and fitness officials say otherwise.

Christie Heslip and her team at Blacksburg Health and Fitness have been working nonstop to make sure people feel safe from COVID-19 at the gym.

“So we pretty much, we have these 7-8 people here at that hour, and we just clean,” said Heslip.

Heslip said they are following all COVID guidelines, but she says some people are uneasy about coming to the gym.

“I feel like so many people are saying, I am not going to come until there is a vaccine, but this is crazy because that could be two years and in the meantime the health is declining,” said Heslip.

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) reports as of August 7 from 2,877 fitness centers and 49 million check-ins, the rate of someone getting COVID from a gym is .002, or a 42,731:1 ratio.

The New River Health District has not identified any outbreaks in gyms or fitness centers and says you should still find ways to be active.

Health officials say regular physical activity may improve many underlying health conditions, therefore potentially reducing the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

“Exercise can be done safely in indoor or outdoor settings as long as precautions such as physical distancing, limiting time of close contact and hand hygiene are followed,” said NRHD epidemiologist Jason Deese.

“There are definitely people who shouldn’t be here that are very compromised with their health, and there are people that don’t want to be here, and that’s fine. But we are encouraging people that can and want to exercise especially with winter coming; it is safe if you follow the guidelines,” said Heslip.

The Virginia Department of Health says COVID-19 is less likely to transmit outdoors, but the risk is lower inside with safety measures in place. Health experts recommend doing a personal risk assessment when thinking about public activities—like going to the gym—to make sure you are putting your health first.

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