How To Reduce Your Risk of Catching The Coronavirus At The Gym

Should you avoid the gym as the UK battles to contain the Coronavirus?

The overriding message from health experts, including Matt Hancock Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, is to hope for the best and plan for the worst as the world and now the UK battles to contain the Covid-19 Coronavirus.


The government’s response to Covid-19 is in its first stage of containing the outbreak. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said

At this stage I want to stress for the vast majority of the people of this country, we should be going about our business as usual

It’s a fast moving and changing situation though, no one can really predict how our day to day lives could be impacted in the coming weeks and months.

What about gym goers, how safe are public places like gyms, what can you do to protect yourself from the risk of infection, or are you better off avoiding the gym altogether?

Gyms, leisure centres and sports facilities already follow guidelines and best practice to reduce the risk of spreading infectious diseases. Legislation such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 covers wide ranging duties of employers to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees as well as members of the public on their premises. The high footfall associated with gyms, coupled with numerous potential contact areas (such as dumbbells, mats, and machine handles), and the likelihood for body fluids to be present on surfaces and objects, increases the contamination risk of infectious diseases.

So how can you protect yourself, and others, and support your gym or fitness establishment cleaning team, in preventing the spread of infection?

Reduce the risk of spreading and catching infections at the gym

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently during your gym session

No doubt you’re already well aware of this public information campaign focusing on the importance of washing your hands more frequently. Applying this to a gym setting it makes sense to wash your hands with soap and water on arrival, after using and holding equipment like the handles on a cross trainer, hand held weights, stretch mats, and when leaving the gym again.

  1. Use antibacterial sprays, or wipes, on equipment after use

Most fitness facilities will have sprays and paper towels available for members and class participants to use. It’s good gym etiquette to wipe down equipment after use, removing any sweat and leaving it suitable for the next user. In the current climate this is even more important.

  1. Take a small hand towel into the gym

A small hand towel can be useful for wiping your hands on and covering equipment such as benches and seats. However, as it’s thought the coronavirus can survive on surfaces for a few hours, and possibly longer, don’t use a towel to clean equipment with. Instead opt for paper and disposable cleaning materials.

  1. Invest in your own yoga mat or perform stretches standing

Mats are a valuable training tool, however they are also a potential area where infection may linger. Antibacterial alcohol based fluids can and should be used to keep gym mats clean, but if you want greater confidence in the cleanliness of your training tools consider in investing in your own mat. Unlike other training equipment yoga type mats are relatively inexpensive to purchase and will give you years of use both inside and outside of the gym. Alternatively try switching to standing based stretches for the time being.

  1. Wear training gloves when using free weights

Hand held weights like dumbbells, bars and weight plates in gyms are used by numerous different gym goers over the course of a day. It would be nearly impossible for these to be thoroughly cleaned in-between each user.

Government Covid-19 guidance states that how long any respiratory virus survives will depend on a number of factors such as

In view of this gloves may offer some level of protection and reassurance. If you prefer not to use gloves then it makes sense to be extra vigilant with washing your hands after using any free weights.

  1. Ask your Personal Trainer, or class instructor, what they are doing to prevent the spread of infection

All responsible Personal Trainers, Pilates Teachers and Class Instructors aim to ensure exercise is safe and effective at all times. Things your instructor can do include refraining from hands on correction at this time to prevent the risk of transferring any infections, washing their hands between clients, asking you to pick up and return any weights rather than double handling them and passing them between the two of you, cleaning equipment between clients or classes, and verbally screening clients at the start of each session to check on current health status.

  1. Train at home or outside instead!

Temporarily switching your training environment may be worth considering if you’re feeling especially anxious at this time, or you have an underlying health condition which means you are at an increased risk of complications should you catch the coronavirus. There are plenty of bodyweight exercises, mobility drills and cardiovascular activities, you can engage in from the comfort of your own home, or in a park. A quick scan through my Instagram account will get you started on a few ideas if you don’t know where to start.

We can all play our part in reducing the immediate risk of spreading, or catching, the coronavirus infection whilst in the gym. Perhaps the most important thing to remember though is that regular exercise and activity, adequate sleep, stress management, and good nutrition are all ways to support long term health and immune function.