Gyms could start opening again in the UK on July 4th. Even if it happens much later – October 2020, for example – it’s almost certain that we’ll still be practising social distancing for some time.
Many of us have already purchased personal protective equipment (PPE) to go food shopping and run errands but is it good enough for the gym?
When we workout are face masks and gloves enough to keep us safe?
What is PPE?
Personal protective equipment is worn to protect a person from a health and safety hazard. With COVID-19, its often surgical masks, disposable gloves and single-use aprons. PPE is often used in a medical setting but since the pandemic started been recommended for public usage, too.
Do I Need to Wear PPE in the Gym?
There’s been a lot of muddled information about whether or not we should be wearing PPE when we’re outside in public places. In other parts of the world, face masks were already common and in some European countries, they were mandatory during lockdown.
In the US, gyms can decide about whether masks are necessary or not. Many have insisted that patrons wear them at all times. Others have left it to the discretion of members. UK Active, the industry body, has said that under the framework it’s recommending to the Government, face masks will not be mandatory for staff.
It is likely to be left to the decision of individual gyms. PureGym has 500,000 facemasks either in storage or coming into stock.
It could be that gym members will insist on everyone wearing facial coverings during a workout. This would make it easier for the premises themselves to enforce a masks-on policy.
Is Your PPE Good Enough for the Gym?
You need to check that your PPE has the CE mark. The CE mark shows that the item complies with EU health and safety directives and is fit for purpose. The Guardian reports that the British Standards Institute has seen an increase in PPE being sold either without the CE or with a falsified mark. PPE that hasn’t been tested to the correct standard won’t offer adequate protection. This puts both the wearer and other people at risk.
Are You Using the Masks Correctly?
If you have the personal protection equipment with the CE mark, then that’s a good start but may not be enough.
The way we wear PPE is important.
Masks prevent you from passing the virus onto someone else because you could be it could be days before you begin displaying signs of illness. Wearing a mask during this ‘shedding stage’ reduces the risk of you transmitting it to other people. Equally, other people wearing a mask will reduce the chance of them passing it onto you.
If it’s a single-use mask, only use it once. Wet masks are less effective at reducing airborne transmission. If it’s multi-use, make sure you’re washing it regularly. The mask should fit snugly around your face without any gaps.
Cover your mouth and nose. Masks are less effective when your nose isn’t covered, too.
It could be difficult to wear a mask in the gym if you’re doing cardio. It can also restrict the amount of air you’re inhaling with could be a problem if you’re prone to breathing problems. There was an incident in China wear a student died during gym activities whilst wearing an N95 medical mask.
Should You Wear Gloves to the Gym?
It’s a tricky one.
We tend to think that if we wear the mask or we put on the gloves that it makes us impervious to the virus or at least less at risk. Wearing masks and gloves can help but it’s hard work to make sure that you’re wearing them correctly.
Gloves, for example, can stop infected droplets touching your skin but what if you later touch your face? The effect is the same as if you weren’t wearing gloves at all. What’s more, you can still infect other surfaces or people by touching them afterwards.
If you’ve touched an infected surface and then go on to pick up a barbell and then go onto the treadmill, etc, you’re contaminating multiple areas. Washing your hands correctly and regularly could be a safer option. If you are wearing gloves, change them regularly. You should be just as careful about what you’re touching and be sure to dispose of them correctly and safely afterwards.
Your PPE might be up to UK standards but it’s important to remember that you still need to be using it correctly and it’s more than just putting it on.
If you’re concerned about returning to the gym, then remember you have plenty of opportunities to workout at home. Check out the GymHugz store for gym accessories like resistance bands and ab-rollers as well as barbell and dumbbell sets.