COVID-19 Protocols for Gyms and Fitness Centres

COVID-19 has transformed the lives of not just South Africans, but also the world population over the last 18 months, in unimaginable ways. No matter your economic or political system or whether you reside within a Capitalist, Populist or Socialist society, the global pandemic has changed the way employers manage the daily operations and safety protocols for any business where person-to-person contact is applicable.
 
Many industries have been affected by these operational and safety changes to various degrees, but one industry that has been affected harder than most is the commercial fitness industry. Gyms and Fitness Centers have been a popular destination for many South Africans since the early 1990s. Whether you utilised your local gym for sport-specific conditioning, general health and wellness, or just for recreational purposes, larger gyms and fitness centres were able to cater to everyone.
 
Before COVID-19, gyms and fitness centres could have between 500-750 people under one roof during peak times, where the healthy, the athletic, and the beginner could enjoy a variety of equipment and activities to provide for each person’s individuals needs or goals. This all changed in March 2020 when South Africa and most of the world implemented specific ‘lockdown’ regulations and since then the fitness industry has had to adapt to the ever-changing indoor gatherings, curfews, and health and safety protocols, as gazetted by the South African government.
 
We now know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets when people cough, sneeze or talk. In addition, you may also be able to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. This all points to gyms and fitness centres being a perfect environment for the virus to spread.
 
At present, the country has relaxed the ‘lockdown’ regulation to level 1, but this does not mean that gyms and fitness centres can let their guard down, as it still qualifies as a super spreader environment where person-to-person contact is unavoidable. Therefore, the following general protocols and safety regulations should be adhered to at all times:
 
General protocols and safety regulations for Gyms and Fitness Centres are listed below:
 
• Open doors and windows, but preferably make use of fans and HVAC systems for air circulation.
• Use only sanitation products which have been approved and can be found on the EPA list.
• Wear a mask and gloves while cleaning and disinfecting any of the equipment in the gym areas.
• All equipment and gym areas must be cleaned and disinfected three times per day.
• Hand sanitiser and disinfectant must be freely available at all times.
• No sweat towels may be used on any of the equipment, but all equipment must be wiped clean with disinfectant after being used.
• If someone was sick or diagnosed with COVID-19 and made use of the facility, the facility must be closed for three days and the space must be cleaned and disinfected afterward.
• Ensure social distancing by allowing a 1.5m distance between equipment and participants.
 
Henrico Louw
Strength and Conditioning Trainer