7 tips to help you safely return to the gym

Now that we’ve entered the summer months, you may be looking to return to your normal exercise routine. That may include assessing the risks of going back to the gym. The good news is, with more people becoming fully vaccinated, and many facilities following safety protocols and capacity limits, gym-goers may be at less risk.

Man wearing a mask riding a cycling bike in a gym

Still, it’s important to make sure you follow recommended safety guidelines to help reduce exposure and transmission of COVID-19. Beyond taking general precautions, like wearing a mask, washing your hands often and social distancing, other safety tips may help you feel safer and help protect those around you.

Restrictions and protocols may vary per gym, so make sure to be aware of the rules in place before you visit. Consider these seven tips to help you plan a safer workout:

1.     Avoid going at peak times
Some gyms may have an early morning and after work rush, so if you are flexible, consider going at a less popular time. You may be required to sign up for a class or workout time, which will help manage crowding. Be mindful of the length of your visit and keep it as brief as possible to help minimize exposure.

2.     Be mindful of masking
It may bring an added challenge to work out while wearing a mask, but some gyms may require it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends if you are not yet vaccinated, you should continue to wear masks, stay 6 feet from others and frequently wash your hands. Be sure to bring an extra mask to the gym to easily replace one that may be sweaty.

3.     Bring your own equipment
Your fitness center may have blocked off the water fountains and may no longer provide towels for sanitary reasons, so make sure to bring your own. It may be a good idea to bring your own equipment, as well, such as a yoga mat or basketball. Wash and sanitize any personal items you bring to the gym before bringing it back into your home.

4.     Keep your distance from other gym-goers
If your gym is following CDC recommendations, you may notice some adjustments to help encourage physical distancing. This may include added space between equipment or signage on certain machines that can’t be used in order to help keep people distanced. Be cautious about keeping 6 feet or more of distance between you and other members at the gym.

5.     Clean equipment before and after using it
Before grabbing your dumbbells or hopping onto the treadmill, give it a good wipe down with a sanitizing wipe. After you’ve finished using the equipment, make sure to wipe it down again. If possible, consider washing your hands or using hand sanitizer before and after using high-touch equipment or machines, as an added precaution.

6.     Avoid crowded or small areas – Common areas that tend to have a larger gathering of people may have limits in place, such as pools, saunas, courts, tracks or locker rooms. If you want to be extra cautious, skip these amenities, come dressed to work out and shower at home.

7.     Stay home if you are feeling sick
If you are showing any symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive or are in close contact with anyone who has recently tested positive, the CDC recommends avoiding the gym, fitness center or studio. Those at higher risk of COVID-19 should also consider waiting to return to the gym.

If you don’t feel ready to return to the gym, that’s OK. There are still ways to stay active at home and outside.

No matter how you get your exercise, you may earn incentives for maintaining your physical health. For example, during the pandemic, UnitedHealthcare introduced a new way for some members to earn Gym Check-In rewards, with or without going to the gym. Eligible members who stay active 12 times per month may earn a Physical Activity Check-In reward.

For more information on how to help stay safe during certain activities, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.