Even when it’s safe to go back to the gym amid the COVID-19 pandemic, vigorous group workouts might not be the best idea.
In a new report, researchers in South Korea were able to link 112 coronavirus cases with fitness dance classes taught at 12 different gyms throughout Cheonan, a city about 50 miles outside of the nation’s capital.
In a research letter published in journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers wrote that they were able to trace all contacts back to a dance instructor workshop for “dance classes set to Latin rhythms,” which was held on February 15.
27 instructors attended the workshop, during which they “trained intensely for 4 hours” according to researchers. Although all were asymptomatic on the day of the workshop, 8 instructors later tested positive for the virus.
The instructors, who had mild symptoms, taught classes, which lasted about an hour and were held twice a week, for about a week after attending the workshop in February. They did not have contact with their students outside of class.
Before gyms began to close, 217 students were exposed to the virus, and 54 students went on to test positive for COVID-19.
Their findings led the researchers to warn against group exercise classes as the COVID-19 outbreak continues.
“Because of the increased possibility of infection through droplets, vigorous exercise in closely confined spaces should be avoided during the current outbreak, as should public gatherings, even in small groups,” they wrote.
The researchers said that there are several factors that may have played a part in the transmission of the virus, including “large class sizes, small spaces, and intensity of the workouts.”
“The moist, warm atmosphere in a sports facility coupled with turbulent air flow generated by intense physical exercise can cause more dense transmission of isolated droplets,” they wrote.
However, they did not report any confirmed coronavirus cases emerging from classes that had fewer than 5 participants. Additionally, there were no confirmed cases that resulted from pilates and yoga classes for between 7-8 students.
“We hypothesize that the lower intensity of Pilates and yoga did not cause the same transmission effects as those of the more intense fitness dance classes,” researchers wrote.
In the U.S., 32 states have already allowed gyms to reopen and several more, including California, are expected to do the same this week.
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