Some US Gyms Reopen with New Anti-Virus Measures

27 May 2020

Some fitness centers in the United States have reopened after lengthy closures meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But the centers, also known as gyms, have established several operational changes in an effort to keep members safe. While the changes look different across states and cities, there are a few basic ideas that most gyms are using.

One of the biggest changes is the creation of more space between workout machines. In addition, gyms are reducing class sizes, cleaning equipment more often and using touchless entry - a way of entering doors without having to touch anything. Some gyms are requiring members to request limited workout times so equipment can be deep cleaned after each use throughout the day.

Still, some say going to the gym is risky. As the country reopens, even some of the most dedicated exercisers are concerned about returning.

Employee of CITYROW Atlanta Midtown, Ellie Klarl, cleans the equipment after a class as gyms reopen with limited members on Saturday, May 16, 2020, amid the COVID-19 virus in Atlanta.
Employee of CITYROW Atlanta Midtown, Ellie Klarl, cleans the equipment after a class as gyms reopen with limited members on Saturday, May 16, 2020, amid the COVID-19 virus in Atlanta.

Exercise and gyms

Mike Weeks and his wife love exercising. During quarantine, they tried home workouts such as push-ups, planks and bike riding. But these workouts were not as fun. Weeks, a semi-retired oil and gas explorer, wanted to go back to his old gym workout.

"To say I missed it..." Weeks said of his gym visits, "is an understatement." An understatement is a kind of statement that makes something seem smaller or less important than it is.

On May 8, the first day that Life Time gym reopened, the Oklahoma City resident was right there, though a little "apprehensive."

"I'm 66 years old," Weeks said, adding that he was in a high-risk group.

For Weeks, the benefits of exercise seem greater than the risks. Many experts agree. They believe that for the majority of healthy Americans under 65, the physical and mental benefits of working out are greater than the risks.

Dr. Deverick Anderson is director of the Duke Center for Antimicrobial Stewardship and Infection Prevention.

"Everyone will have to keep in mind that the world we're trying to get back to is going to carry risk," Anderson said. "I think responsibility is on both sides of that coin. Don't just rely on your gym to do everything. You've got to play a part in this process as well."

Gyms and the future

However, some experts wonder how prepared the U.S. fitness industry is to deal with reopening. Critics note that there are no clear rules and enforcement nationwide.

Dr. Kristin Englund is an infectious diseases expert at the Cleveland Clinic. "I'm still very concerned," Englund told The Associated Press. "If they're not wearing a mask or wiping down the equipment," she asked, "what is the ability to enforce that or not allow them to come back?"

Aaron Fowler brought a mask with him when he returned to his exercise class at CITYROW in Atlanta, Georgia last weekend. But he quickly put it aside because it caused breathing difficulties. The exercise machines were much further apart than in the past, and only seven people were permitted in the class.

Fowler, who is in charge of transportation at an Atlanta university, told the AP that just being able to work out for an hour helped him ease some stress, and that was important. He signed up for the next class, but says he will consider the risks day by day.

He expects the virus threat to last a year. "I don't know if I can go that long without it," he said about his gym activity.

I'm John Russell.

Kelli Kennedy reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.


Words in This Story

dedicated – adj. having very strong support for or loyalty to a person, group, cause, etc.

quarantine – n. the period of time during which a person or animal that has a disease or that might have a disease is kept away from others to prevent the disease from spreading

apprehensive – adj. afraid that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen

benefit – n. a good or helpful result or effect

rely on – phrasal verb to depend on (someone or something).

mask – n. a covering for your face or for part of your face

allow – v. to permit (something) : to regard or treat (something) as acceptable

stress – n. a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.