By now, many of us are experts when it comes to avoiding COVID-19. The disease thrives in packed and closed-off environments, and our main way of protecting ourselves is to be vaccinated and masked up.
But, according to a new study, there’s one place in particular that is a haven for COVID-19, and that’s the gym.
Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study analyzed 16 people and their workout routines, looking at their exhalations while at rest and at movement. Researchers expected that they would produce more exhalations during a workout. But they were surprised by just how many more aerosol particles the subjects exhaled and how these increased depending on how intense the workout was.
Researchers found that, when people were at rest, they exhaled about 500 particles per minute. When they were moving, they exhale over 76,000 particles per minute, particularly if their workout is extenuating, like a spinning class or boot camp training. Pair this with a crowded room with poor ventilation, basically most workout classes, and it’s likely to result in a super spreader event even if there’s only one person infected.
“The study provides mechanistic data to back up the assumption that exercising indoors is a higher-risk activity when it comes to transmission of COVID-19,” Linsey Marr, an expert on airborne transmission of viruses, told the New York Times.
Despite the risks, measures like opening windows, maintaining six feet of distance, and installing air filters can help the risks. While wearing a face mask is not ideal when working out, it can help reduce your aerosol particles. Experts recommend a tight-fitting surgical mask, which can be more comfortable than others and is made of breathier fabrics.
While these measures can’t be adopted by all gyms, they’re helpful guidelines nowadays, especially when looking for a safe space to work out and when COVID rates are high in your area.