While other countries around the world have seen their facilities start to slowly open up by following strict social distancing guidelines — from partitioned commercial gyms in Hong Kong to 'pod workouts' in group fitness classes in California – the UK is still having to wait.
With Boris Johnson's government green-lighting pubs, restaurants, barbers, salons, and other non-essential facilities to reopen from July 4th, gym, studio, and fitness center owners have been left scratching their heads about a future reopening date.
Having been forcibly closed since mid-March 2020, UK gyms are believed to be at risk of becoming high-transmission areas and, with high foot traffic and little room to space out equipment or training areas, pose a complex problem when it comes to reopening safely while adhering to the "one meter plus" rule.
A new study from Norway however, could prove beneficial when it comes to fighting for these facilities to reopen safely. The findings, thought to be the first of their kind, come from the University of Oslo and show that going to the gym doesn't increase your risk of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19).
The randomized, two-week study began on May 22nd, studying five different gyms in Oslo, with 3764 study participants aged 18 to 64-years-old with no underlying health conditions. During the study, 80 percent of the participants used the gyms once, with 38 percent visiting over six times. Half of the study group were also told to keep away from the gym, for the purpose of comparison. Sticking to social distancing rules (one meter for 'floor exercise' and two meters for high-intensity classes), the study participants also used hand sanitizer regularly and had lockers available. After the two weeks, the participants took an antibody test on June 8th.
The results of the study displayed an interesting result — of the 3764 participants, only one person caught coronavirus, but was part of the group that had not attended the gym. Conversely, over the study period, 207 people had contracted coronavirus in Oslo.
"This shows us that low-prevalence environments are safe for gyms and probably just about everything else. It is very unlikely you will get infected," explained Dr. Gordon Guyatt, a professor of medicine at McMaster University to the New York Times.
"You can’t stay locked down forever. We are never going to be completely free of this thing. And in a low-prevalence environment, the risk is low wherever you go — gyms or grocery stores or even restaurants."
The publication of the study follows the secretary of state for culture, media, and sport, Oliver Dowden, tweeting that "subject to public health", gyms and leisure facilities could reopen in mid-July.