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Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, kettlebells and resistance bands have been hot commodities (right up there with toilet paper and hand sanitizer) as we pivoted from working out at the gym to exercising at home. Those of us who like the motivation of following along with an instructor turned to virtual workout classes on Instagram Live and other subscription platforms for our fitness fix. Streaming a class at home isn’t exactly the same as participating in person, though, especially if you enjoy the camaraderie of a group class or are tempted to press pause mid-workout. So when gyms and studios took their classes outside to parks and rooftops during the spring and summer to allow for social distancing (Physique 57, 305 Fitness, Barry’s, and Tone House are still offering outdoor classes throughout the city this month), working out almost started to feel normal again.
But what will we do when it gets too cold? Depending on local regulations, reopened gyms have introduced a variety of safety measurements. Crunch, for example, is limiting occupancy to one-third in many gyms and installing advanced air-filtration systems. Last month, Equinox opened Equinox+ In the Wild, a full outdoor gym near Hudson Yards that offers both ground classes and equipment for working out on your own. With heat lamps and tented areas, it’ll be a safe, outdoor option even as winter approaches.
Indoor group classes are currently not allowed in New York City, but if they do open up (or you live in an area where they’re happening), how can you best protect yourself and others from COVID? To find out, we asked two infectious-disease doctors — W. David Hardy of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Peter Katona of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA — about everything from exercising with a mask to sharing equipment.
Both doctors agree that, weather permitting, outdoor classes are still the way to go. “If you’re outdoors, you’ve got sunlight, you’ve got temperature, you’ve got air currents — you’ve got all these things working in your favor,” Katona says. But if you don’t have that option and you find yourself in an indoor class, there are steps that you and your gym can take to make the experience as safe as possible.
One thing to look out for is how well your studio promotes air circulation, whether through leaving doors or windows open or maintaining a high-quality HVAC system. Class capacity should also be far smaller than in normal times to allow for distancing — lots of distancing. “Six feet would be the bare minimum,” Hardy says, “because while you’re exercising, you are breathing forcefully.” Those hard exhalations could cause you to expel more respiratory particles, and those particles could travel a longer distance compared to regular breathing. You should also