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During the peak of every flu season, which is typically between the fall and winter (September-February) we are always inundated with questions about “training when sick”. I did an Ask Dr. Bell several years ago on this topic and to be honest, not much has changed.
With that being said, the Coronavirus, COVID-19, is now categorized as a pandemic.
The designation of “Pandemic” doesn’t refer to the severity or deadliness of the disease.
According to the World Health Organization, “a pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease”.
Basically, the virus is spreading easily from person-to-person. People are being isolated that are actively sick with COVID-19, to avoid spreading it to others.
The tricky part is symptoms may not appear for as long as 14 days after exposure.
The CDC believes, “symptoms may appear from 2 to 14 days after exposure.”
So, you could be around someone that is actively sick from COVID-19 but is not yet showing symptoms .
To make things more interesting, an individual might be actively sick with COVID-19, but never show any symptoms at all.
Some Doctors believe the actual numbers are much higher than are being reported, due to mild symptoms or lack of symptoms. This is both a good thing and bad thing.
Higher numbers mean a lower mortality rate. Of course, the negative is if people aren’t being isolated that have the illness, they are likely spreading it to others.
Because this is a new coronavirus, that has not been previously identified, there is so much unknown. Most of what you hear is pure speculation.
What is being reported by the CDC, is the symptoms:
The symptoms for COVID-19 are
- Shortness of breath
The CDC has also published a list of “Emergency Warning Signs”.
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
According to the CDC, call your Doctor if you have developed symptoms, and/or have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19.
The hope is warm weather will stop COVID-19, just like all other speculation on this new disease, only time will tell.
What are things you can do to protect yourself?
Just like the flu or any other illness, there are simple things you can do every day to take precautions against COVID-19 and the flu season we get every year.
Wash your hands!
I honestly don’t understand why washing your hands has become rocket science. I also do not understand why hand sanitizer and soap are now precious commodities.
I was washing my hands before it was cool. I was carrying around hand sanitizer whenever I traveled.
Regardless, if you are new to the club, wash your hands with soap in preferably hot water, for at least 20 seconds. Do this every time you sneeze, cough and blow your nose.
Wash your hands every time you use the bathroom.
Make an effort to wash your hands after touching public surfaces such as handrails, doorknobs, light switches, handles, etc.
I always preach this in my Personal Training Classes. Bathroom door handles are one of the worst hotspots for bacteria. Be sure after you just finished washing your hands in a restroom, that you make an effort to not touch the doorknob directly if possible. While you have been meticulously washing your hands, you can’t bet on everyone else doing the same. Use the last paper towel you used to turn off the water faucet and open the door, so you don’t touch the faucet or doorknob.
I always carry around a pack of travel tissues and wet wipes.
Of course, I have been even more diligent than usual. Pull out a tissue to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something. Worst case use your sleeve. I even know some people that are wearing latex gloves when they are in public.
Also, it is important to avoid touching your face, nose and eyes, if you must, be sure to wash your hands (before and after).
If you need to cough or sneeze, be sure to cover your mouth. The best option is to use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
While most public events are being canceled left and right, it’s probably a good idea to avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces for the time being.
While hand sanitizer is good, it’s not a substitute for washing your hands. If you are out and it’s all you have access to, I agree, it’s better than nothing. But, if you can wash your hands instead, that should always be Plan A.
COVID-19 and Exercise
Most Fitness Professionals are Type A, rub some dirt in, sweat it out, personalities.
I can’t emphasis this enough, if you think you have the flu, not even COVID-19, but just your good old-fashioned flu, do NOT go to a public gym.
First, you could and most likely would, spread your illness to others and second, you will most likely make your symptoms worse.
The same rules apply if you have a fever. In a fevered state, exercising could cause your body to overheat, easily exceeding safe temperatures and causing serious harm to your body.
If you have a minor cold, you should once again, NOT go to the gym and spread your illness, however, very light exercise might actually help you.
Very light cardio and stretching might do you good.
The Theory is that light exercise is not strenuous enough to depress your immune system but is sufficient physical activity to elevate your body temperature to “Burn out the Bug!”
Keeping in mind that a fever is the bodies way of killing the bacteria or virus that is making you sick! I also think that light exercise gives a reason for your mitochondria to produce more ATPs, the energy you need for health and activity.
Remember, “very light exercise” should be done in your own home or outside in an open space avoiding other individuals.
If you are perfectly healthy and still choosing to go to a public gym, you should be taking extra precautions. Make sure you wipe down any equipment before and after using it. Bring your own mats, props, etc. Avoid the water fountains and bring your own water bottles, filled before you arrive. Do not share your personal equipment (towels, water bottles, etc.) with anyone.
Most gyms that are choosing to remain open are using hospital grade cleansers to sanitize equipment several times a day. But it’s always a good idea to check in with them and inquire what extra precautions they are taking due to COVID-19.
It is also important to remember, that gyms are open all year long, even during flu season. Putting COVID-19 aside for a minute, the CDC estimates from Oct. 1, 2019 through February 29, 2020: that at least 34,000,000 – 49,000,000 had the flu, and the number of deaths may be as high as 52,000.
View the stats here.
My point is gyms are well aware that sweat is a breeding ground for illness. While COVID-19 is new, viruses, diseases and the spread of illness, is something gyms deal with full time. Most gyms do everything they can already to keep the environment as clean as possible.
I know some of my gym owner friends have transitioned all their classes outdoors, to avoid having gym members together in tight spaces. Some gyms are canceling their group classes all together. At the end of the day, there is only so much any of us can do.
It’s a balance of being aware and taking COVID-19 seriously, but at the same time, understand we aren’t at “World War Z” levels…At least not yet.
Overall, if you feel healthy, keep doing what you are doing. Just be extra mindful of all the things you can do to stop the spread of this illness.