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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Wash, spray, repeat: When danger lurks everywhere

You can have all the dumbbells, the exercise mats and resistance bands at home. It’s not the same as working out in an atmosphere where everyone is dedicated to self optimization.

Written by Leher Kala | New Delhi | August 3, 2020 3:36:39 pm
gyms in lockdown, COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown fitness, working out amid pandemic, leher kala column, indian express news Gyms, health clubs and sports facilities were expected to open in Unlockdown 3 as well but that decision has been postponed again. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

The Central government has issued guidelines for Phase 3 of its Covid Unlockdown plan, and people employed in the hospitality industry may reasonably hope to be back at work soon. Though the details between the state and central government still need to be ironed out the plan is for Delhi hotels to reopen, a beginning to what is bound to be a very challenging phase. The decline in occupancy in India’s luxury hotels has been reported to be as much as 96 per cent since March, when seminars, conferences and events began to be abruptly cancelled. If Covid Unlockdown 2 is anything to go by when restaurants restarted in June to a dismal response, it’s unlikely that hotels will fare much better. While people are moving around between one another’s homes, nobody seems comfortable stepping out to a public place to dine. It’s unclear whether patrons are not going because they are scared of Covid, or because restaurants aren’t serving alcohol, or a combination of both. If the restaurant experience is one full of fear and suspicion, with the added aggravation of no spirits to relieve that tension, it’s hardly surprising they’re empty.

Gyms, health clubs and sports facilities were expected to open in Unlockdown 3 as well but that decision has been postponed again.  The question remains, that even if they were to open, would anybody go? For decades, I have considered the gym my second home because no matter what is happening in my life, I find the time to go there. No doubt, people are itching to get back to their lives but they’re also wondering if it would be safe or wise to return to the old way of working out. Like schools, gyms by their very nature, are even in normal times hotbeds of infection. When you have a high density of people sweating and sharing equipment in an enclosed air-conditioned space, your exposure to all kinds of pathogens is that much more. There’s so much scary information about how coronavirus droplets can survive for hours in the air which means the risks of aerosol transmissions in a gym would be very high. Knowing this it seems unlikely if the gym model can survive Covid, till a vaccine is found.

Having said that, working out is a lifestyle and home workouts aren’t enough. Walking and running around one’s colony is better than doing nothing but for a fitness enthusiast it’s impossible to overlook the fact that it burns less than half the calories of a regular gym session. You can have all the dumbbells, the exercise mats and resistance bands at home, or the fancy apps with calorie counts. It’s not the same as working out in an atmosphere where everyone is dedicated to self optimization. There are enough hard outs who feel they’ve done their bit by sacrificing five months to the pandemic, and think if they commit to the right precautions they will be safe in the gym as well. However, in the unlikely event that health clubs open this month, the rules will be very different. For one, just the thought of doing high intensity cardio with a mask on is suffocating. I find I am unable to finish a brisk walk without feeling severely constricted and breathless with half my face covered.

Data collected from areas of Italy where the Covid lockdown was severe suggests the average weight of people residing in containment zones has gone up by 2 kilos. How lifestyles change post Covid will depend on personality types, and the trade-offs one is willing to make. Is a lower level of fitness acceptable over a higher perceived Covid risk? We may seek solace in all the money we’re saving over memberships while ruing the social and physical benefits of Zumba and body pump classes. For now, it seems that walking and biking outside is a far safer option, keeping in mind human nature and the inherent limitations of running a safe, Covid-free gym.

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