Doctors Explain When It’ll Actually Be Safe To Go Back To The Gym

Between state regulations and vaccinations, here’s what you should know.

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A person lifts weights in an empty gym. Gyms are reopening in Georgia, but does that mean it's safe ...
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You've been dedicated to your YouTube workouts and hill sprints during the pandemic, and maybe you were even lucky enough to snag a kettlebell or two before they disappeared from the virtual shelves. But if you've been missing your spin class or barbells, you're probably wondering when it will be safe to go to the gym again. With varying levels of restrictions, all states across the country have reopened their gyms. But according to medical professionals, you’ll still need to take precautions before declaring it safe to return to the gym.

Is It Safe To Go To The Gym When They Open In My State?

Different states are working on unlocking their gym doors with different requirements and restrictions. For example, as of March 19, Connecticut will be reopening gyms without capacity limits (although regional mask, cleaning, and distance protocols will remain in effect). Arizona lifted gym capacity limits in March, too, though the order lifting the limits will be reviewed every two weeks.

Other states have been letting gyms open more fully, but still without completely eliminating capacity limits. As of March 16, LA County, CA, has allowed gyms to reopen at 10% capacity with a mask requirement. On March 15, the District of Columbia started allowing gyms to open their doors to a 25% capacity, as well as host indoor fitness classes for up to 10 people. This is exciting news for gym-goers who’ve missed the rush of a good treadmill firing up.

Assuming everyone at a newly-re-opened gym wears masks, there is still a risk of spreading the virus, says Dr. Dennis Cardone, D.O., a sports medicine specialist at NYU Langone Sports Health. "The current recommendation is still to exercise at home or safely in the outdoors," he tells Bustle. So even if your favorite fitness center is open again, you might still want to stick to livestream workouts.

Can I Go To The Gym If I’m Vaccinated?

"I would be very careful going to the gym right now," says Dr. Peter Gulick, D.O., an infectious disease expert at Michigan State University. Even if there is a full six feet of distance between each machine (which is very unlikely in most facilities), Dr. Gulick tells Bustle that the spacing might not matter, given how hard people tend to breathe while working out in a confined space. This is especially true of group fitness classes, which have been sources of COVID spreading between unvaccinated folks in Honolulu and Chicago. Even if you’re vaccinated, remember that not everyone in your limited-capacity spin class is.

Still, you can breathe a bit easier at the gym once you’re vaccinated, since the risk that you will get sick is reduced considerably once you’re fully vaccinated (aka, two-ish weeks after your last shot). There’s increasing evidence that shows that you may be less likely to spread the virus once you’re fully vaccinated, but you might determine that the risks still outweigh the benefits of your sweat session if you interact or live with unvaccinated folks. So when you lace up your gym shoes, make sure you’re keeping your distance and wearing your mask to protect the people around you.

So When *Will* It Be Safe To Go To The Gym?

If you're chomping at the bit to get back to your gym, I feel you. But as with everything during the pandemic, it's not that simple. "Workouts are important to well-being and mental health, but right now they need to be done in a safe environment," Dr. Gulick says. "If you want to go to the gym, just remember that even though you may be young and may only get a minor infection, if you live with someone at high risk, you may want to think again."


Dr. Peter Gulick, D.O., infectious disease expert at Michigan State University

Dr. Dennis Cardone, D.O., sports medicine specialist at NYU Langone Sports Health

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