Missing the Gym? Experts Say You Might Want to Consider Taking an Outdoor Fitness Class

As many states begin entering re-opening phases—including opening retail stores, restaurants, and movie theatres—experts agree that one of the highest risk environments for contracting coronavirus is the gym. So, what should you do if you want to start exercising and home workouts aren’t satisfying? Consider taking an outdoor group fitness class, such as pilates, yoga, or barre. You’ll get the same health benefits of exercising in the open air as you would in a studio or gym, but there’s far less chance of spreading germs.

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“Doing group exercise activities outdoors is going to be much more safe than doing (it) indoors,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an infectious disease physician, told TODAY. “That could be much more conducive to social distancing and putting in measures that might make it less likely to see transmission.”

If you attend a group fitness class, bring your own equipment such as a yoga mat, hand weights, a towel, and water bottle. Set up your props at least six feet away from other attendees and wear a mask immediately before and after class. However, if you have even more room to spread out, take advantage to further distance yourself from others. Instructors should avoid correcting the attendees’ posture with hands-on adjustments and instead use verbal cues.

Related: Why It’s So Important to Keep Exercising During the Coronavirus Outbreak

But are some types of fitness classes safer than others? Experts say yes. Choose low-impact exercises such as yoga or pilates, instead of HIIT or spinning, because class participants are less likely to breathe heavily and sweat excessively. “Studies that were done on indoor classes found that classes like yoga and Pilates had a lot lower risk than some of the more aggressive exercises,” Saad Omer, the director of the Yale Institute for Global Health and a professor of infectious diseases at the Yale School of Medicine, told TODAY. “We think that’s because there’s a lot of heavy breathing going on…in (more intensive) situations.”

Plus, instructors of fitness classes that are lower impact or more restorative in nature are more likely to talk in a softer voice, which means they’re less likely to spread droplets that potentially contain germs.

During hot summer months, outdoor classes may require fans to keep everyone cool but some studies have found that fans could spread the virus. Instead, set up in a shaded area, or host class early in the morning or in the evening when the heat and humidity won’t be as intense. “This is a time where we can afford to have outdoor classes,” said Omer. “Health is not just a pandemic-related phenomenon, it’s our broader well-being.