As many cities are entering into yellow and green phases of reopening, fitness centers and gyms are starting to open their doors again. In fact, in 32 states, people are already breaking a sweat in a group environment.
However, before you decide to join in on a sweat-inducing group workout, whether it is Crossfit, Zumba, or F45—you might want to consider the potential for coronavirus infection. And, if you already have joined in during the pandemic, you should probably get tested ASAP.
A new report from South Korea published in the medical journal Emerging Infectious Diseases and on the CDC’s website links 112 coronavirus cases with fitness dance classes taught at 12 different gyms throughout Cheonan.
Linked to “High Aerobic” Group Workouts
According to the authors, all cases were traced back to a single February 15 dance instructor workshop for “dance classes set to Latin rhythms,” popular due to their “high aerobic intensity,” attended by 27 instructors where they “trained intensely for 4 hours.”
None of them showed symptoms on the day of the workshop, but 8 ended up testing positive for the virus. While suffering mild symptoms—such as a cough—they continued to teach classes twice a week for one hour, a week after the workshop. Other than the classes, they had no contact with their students. In total, 217 students were exposed to the virus by the 8 infected instructors—54 of whom went on to test positive for COVID-19. The infection rate averages out to nearly 25 percent.
Over 50 percent of cases were the result of transmission from instructors to fitness class participants, while a third, 38 cases were, in-family transmission from instructors and students, and 17 cases, 15 percent, from transmission during meetings with coworkers or acquaintances.
“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,” researchers wrote about their findings.
Why the Transmission Rate Was So High
Researchers believe there are several reasons why transmission rate was so high in the classes, 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 explain.
In smaller classes (less than 5 participants) taught by an infected instructor, they did not record any confirmed cases. Additionally, in lower-impact classes such as pilates and yoga, with 7-8 students, there were no infections as well.
“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,” they explain.
As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.
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