Do gyms cause COVID-19 Outbreaks? Professor Brett Sutton and Dan Andrews recently proposed that gyms “caused outbreaks.” Likely due to the rigorous physical activity that takes place in a health club environment. How true is this statement?
I’m no epidemiologist or virologist so please take this post with a grain of salt. I’m not saying you should attend a gym during a pandemic and potentially risk your health.
However, this topic is far more nuanced than Professor Sutton has made out. Not only has he fear mongered members into not going to the gym when they potentially re-open. He has subsequently crippled a large majority of Fitness Businesses.
People might be too scared to return to the gym now because of Professor Sutton’s comments. The fitness industry is already struggling. Now, we’ve suffered another crippling blow.
Do Gyms Cause COVID-19 Outbreaks: A Study From Norway.
Gyms play an important part in people’s health and wellbeing. A Norwegian study aimed to discover the risk of COVID-19 community transmission in training facilities (1).
They cite data suggested Norwegians are more sedentary now that gyms are closed. Potentially compromising the health of the population. It’s important to only close gyms if it’s really necessary.
There are public and individual health consequences, both mental and physical that could compound the health ramifications associated with COVID-19. Having access to training facilities could be deemed essential.
There is a lack of scientific evidence available to support the closure of training facilities. It is hard to assess the benefits and harms of closures when little formal literary data exists.
5 training facilities were opened In Oslo, Norway to all their members who weren’t at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease. Participants either had no access or access to the facilities with mitigation methods in place. Like social distancing and hand hygiene.
“Individuals were advised to stay home if they had any COVID-19 related symptoms. No masks were required, but members were advised to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth. (1)”
Over 3,000 people signed up for the trial. After the two-week trial period there was 1 positive test of SARS-CoV-2 in someone randomised to the training group out of 3016 tests.
Researchers suggested that transmission was probably not related to the trial period. and there was no transmission during the trial intervention related to the case.
The “trial showed no virus transmission or increase in COVID-19 disease related to opening of trainings facilities providing good hygiene and social distancing routines. (1)”
“Basic hand hygiene and social distancing measures by securing 1 to 2 meters distance between individuals are well-proven. (1)”
“If virus containment, including contact tracing and quarantine, hand hygiene and personal social distancing measures are sufficient to prevent virus spread, closures could be avoided and thus harms reduced. (1)”
The “trial population is representative of many users of training facilities and the results may thus be applied to other regions and countries. (1)”
Do Gyms Cause COVID-19 Outbreaks In Australia?
Further, “Fitness Australia research found there was more than 7.31 million check-ins across 546 gyms in the first eight weeks after they reopened in NSW on 13 June. During that same period there had been zero cases of reported community transmission in a gym.”
additionally, they recently just posted, “An analysis of 49.4 million-member check-ins across 2,873 gyms in the US over three months studied the “visit-to-virus” ratio data from health and fitness clubs.
It showed that, out of the nearly 50 million visits, only 0.0023 per cent had tested positive for COVID-19 – a result deemed statistically irrelevant.”
Lastly, a study was recently published showing that obesity basically doubles your risk of dying from SARS‐CoV‐2 (2). Specifically, the study found that Mortality was significantly raised in people with obesity with the following OR in BMI 30‐35, 35‐40 and >40 kg/m2.
Before you completely disregard this research because it used BMI to assess body composition, please understand that at a large population level BMI is probably the most convenient way to assess people’s obesity status.
This study contained over 5000 patients with COVID-19. They cannot all receive DEXA scans and body fat calliper tests. It’s simply not feasible and certainly unnecessary.
Based on these findings, it would appear that Professor Sutton’s and The Premier’s comments are evidently flawed and the evidence is mixed, at best.
Further, they continue to ignore the health ramifications of limiting exercise to 1 and now 2 hours per day. Jump for joy.
It’s certainly not as one-sided as they suggest. Gyms don’t appear to “cause outbreaks” as initially asserted. Exercise, in a structured environment with professionals present may be used as a means of keeping population obesity down to decrease the number of deaths from COVID-19
It’s also important to note that even if gyms did significantly contribute to community transmission, they have a robust and strict booking system that is integral to their business models.
Whether it’s a small personal training studio like MEAN, which requires members to schedule every class. Or, a large commercial gym which requires members to FOB in, gyms have a strict and detailed record of its members.
I’d contend better than most, if not all other industries that are still permitted to operate in some capacity. We’re not even allowed on site.
If you found this informative and you think it’s important to help struggling businesses and hold Professor Sutton accountable to his comments that are simply not evidence based, or at least biased, please share this to help gyms resurface from Stage 4 restrictions.
- M. Bretthauer, Randomized Re-Opening of Training Facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. medRxiv, 2020.2006.2024.20138768 (2020).
- S. Czernichow et al., Obesity doubles mortality in patients hospitalized for SARS-CoV-2 in Paris hospitals, France: a cohort study on 5795 patients. Obesity (Silver Spring), (2020).