Is safe to use the gym or to go swimming during the coronavirus pandemic? Advice on visiting leisure centres as virus spreads

Do you go swimming regularly? (Photo: Shutterstock)Do you go swimming regularly? (Photo: Shutterstock)
Do you go swimming regularly? (Photo: Shutterstock) | Other 3rd Party
With more and more events getting cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak, and with businesses beginning to close their doors, going to the gym or for a swim can be a great way to let off some steam - but leisure centres have been identified as high risk locations for spreading the virus

This is what you need to know about whether it’s safe to visit the gym or pool as the coronavirus outbreak escalates.

Is it safe to go swimming?

The Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group (PWTA) consulted with Public Health England and was told: “We have checked with our national leads who confirm that coronavirus would be inactivated at the levels of chlorine used in swimming pools.”

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This is what you need to know about going to the gym during the outbreak (Photo: Shutterstock)This is what you need to know about going to the gym during the outbreak (Photo: Shutterstock)
This is what you need to know about going to the gym during the outbreak (Photo: Shutterstock) | Other 3rd Party

The opinion of Public Health is that it is “generally safe” to go swimming at this time, as water and the chlorine within the swimming pools would help to kill the virus.

However, the PWTA does say that the COVID-19 situation is still evolving and that people using the pool are directed to show before entering the pool, and to shower upon leaving the pool.

Is it safe to go to the gym?

Speaking to Sky News, immunologist Dr Jenna Maccichi said: “I think people should be extra vigilant in any area where there may be lots of people close together and sharing equipment such as gyms, as this may increase transmission of infection.”

These are the symptoms you need to be aware of (Photo: WHO)These are the symptoms you need to be aware of (Photo: WHO)
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Speaking to ABC’s Coronacast, physician and journalist Dr Norman Swan identified gyms as a “high risk” location for germs to be spread.

He said: “Dampness is a bad thing for spreading germs. You’ve got these big blokes pumping away and you never know, one of them might be a superspreader.”

Dr Swan said that despite there not being any evidence of COVID-19 being spread through sweat, transmission can occur for example if someone with the virus coughs or sneezes into their hands, then touches surfaces such as gym equipment that other people would then go on to use.

However, just because the gym could be a perfect breeding ground for the virus to spread, the doctor says it shouldn’t completely stop you from going to the gym.

“Dampness is a bad thing for spreading germs so you want to swab those surfaces down,” Dr Swan said. "It doesn't mean you stop going to the gym but you've got to be super careful.”

Can I freeze my gym membership?

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With growing concerns regarding COVID-19, some gym chains are amending their policies regarding cancelling and freezing their memberships.

Leisure centre chain PureGym issued a notice saying that their members’ health and safety is their number one priority, so they have “waived the usual free to freeze a membership for all current members for one month during the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)”.

This means that you wouldn’t need to completely cancel your PureGym membership if you want to take a break, and you won’t have to pay a fee to rejoin in the future.

Many gyms have also announced stricter and more frequent levels of cleaning.

The Gym chain issued a statement saying: “We have increased the frequency of checks to the hand wash facilities and will ensure that we have plenty of soap available, with checks taking place every 30 minutes.”

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