Working out is often a great way to de-stress at the end of the day and a good way to keep your immune system in tip-top shape.

But fears of contracting the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, have many people on edge and avoiding places where they could contract the disease or spread the virus to other people.

On that point, the gym is a place where people can easily pick up other people’s germs.

That’s of particular concern because the new coronavirus causes respiratory illness that can spread by touching surfaces a person with the virus has touched or even via airborne droplets when a person sneezes or coughs.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned people Mar. 10 to take basic precautions about limiting their exposure to the virus.

“Take everyday precautions like avoiding close contact with people who are sick, cleaning your hands often, and to the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places,” Messonnier said. “Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) says some coronaviruses can linger on surfaces “for a few hours or up to several days,” which is part of the reason they recommend washing your hands often with soap and water or using hand sanitizer.

What fitness centers are doing

Gyms are often crowded places where many of the surfaces — from free weights to the controls on a treadmill — are touched a lot.

Simply wiping sweat off with a towel isn’t enough to stop the coronavirus and other bugs from spreading.

While a handful of Twitter users report the novel coronavirus hasn’t changed their gym habits, many fitness centers have reached out to their members to tell them the extra preventive steps they’re taking.

That includes closing down.

Nationwide, chains have also been reassuring its members that its spaces are clean and safe.

Planet Fitness says it has “extensive cleanliness policies and procedures in place.”

“Team members conduct regular and thorough cleaning of all equipment, surfaces, and areas of the club and gym floor using disinfectant cleaning supplies,” McCall Gosselin, Planet Fitness’ spokeswoman, said. “In addition, they regularly complete overnight cleaning of the facility.”

Anytime Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness, two other major national gym chains, didn’t have any coronavirus warnings on their websites, nor did they respond to requests for comment.

Simon Hansen, an experienced athlete, coach, and sports blogger, said he’s visited the gym less frequently since the COVID-19 outbreak, although he knows people with strong immune systems are less likely to be affected.

“I think that it’s a necessary precaution to take especially since we might unknowingly harm the immunocompromised,” Hansen said. “However, this doesn’t mean that I’ve removed exercise from my daily routine.”

Instead, he works out at home.

Exercising at home

If you’re staying at home, you still probably want to continue your workout routine.

Besides the health benefits, it’s also good to stay active to ward off going stir crazy from being cooped up for an extended period of time.

Dr. David Nazarian, who’s board certified in internal medicine and practices in Beverly Hills, said that because the new coronavirus is rapidly spreading, it’s important to take standard precautions to protect yourself.

“Exercise is important for overall healthy well-being, but it is vital to protect yourself from airborne disease, especially new ones such as the coronavirus where effective treatment is still being studied,” he said.

“If avoiding places that are high risk for transmission of airborne diseases is necessary, there can be alternative options such as working out at home,” he added.

Alexandra Ellis, creator of AE Wellness and host of The Body Nerd Show, said if you’re avoiding the gym for fear of getting sick, there’s a lot you can do at home that requires no equipment.

“Focus on the basics such as planks, pushups, squats, leg lifts, or bicycles and burpees for an easy workout that will build strength and get your heart rate up. My favorite way to build a workout is to do 4 rounds of 5 exercises for 45 seconds of work, followed by 15 seconds of rest,” Ellis said.

“Choose exercises that target different areas of your body and you’ll have a full-body workout in less than 20 minutes,” she said.

For people looking for more guidance during their home exercise, there are plenty of tutorials available online, whether on YouTube or other portals.

Chris Muir Co-Founder and ACTION Certified Personal Trainer at CALIBER said “technology has evolved so that anyone with a smart phone or computer can be paired with a qualified online personal trainer who could design a custom workout and nutrition plan – then help you every step along the way. All for a fraction of the price you’d pay for in-person training.”

Some people are even responding to COVID-19 and subsequent distancing and quarantine measures.

One such example is the online yoga platform EkhartYoga, which is offering free gentle yoga and meditation classes online to people during the outbreak to help counteract the escalation of stress and anxiety that comes with it.

“We can only begin to imagine the stress of being in isolation,” Esther Ekhart, the platform owner and a yoga teacher, said in a statement. “While, thankfully, the majority of us aren’t in physical danger, we can’t fail to escape the news, which in itself can cause worry and anxiety.”

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