Chair of Exercise Biology develops hygiene concepts for coronavirus infection control in fitness studios for German and Dutch associations


How to prevent airborne SARS-CoV-2 infections in gyms?

The closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have hit gyms hard. To reopen gyms after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, hygiene concepts were required to ensure that gyms identify the risks caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and minimize them with effective strategies.

Here Prof. Dr. Henning Wackerhage together with a multidisciplinary team of scientists produced recommendations for the German Industry Association for Fitness and Health e.V. (DIFG). Members of the team were the physician Dr. Andrea Dietlmeier, the lawyer Prof. Dr. Angela Lindfeld, the Scottish virologist Prof. Dr. Roger Everett, the fitness scientist Prof. Dr. Stephan Geisler and the research assistant Dr. Martin Schönfelder. The core of the report was a 5-point plan with the points: 

  1. Staff training on the SARS-CoV-2 corona virus, the COVID-19 disease caused by it, infection routes, disinfection, risk groups, etc. Owners of fitness studios should also inform their employees daily, e.g. by e-mail, about the development of case numbers in their district and in Germany (e.g. by information obtained via the Robert Koch Institute Dashboard).  
  2. Information for members:  Members are sometimes anxious and need to be informed about how their gym is being reorganised and in particular how it reduces the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection. 
  3. Adapt the operation of the gym to avoid droplet, aerosol and smear infections.
  4. Protect COVID-19 risk groups through information and special protective measures.
  5. Plan procedures to respond quickly and in a planned manner, for example, if a member is in the gym with COVID-19 symptoms or if a member reports that they tested positive for corona virus after visiting the gym. For details see: https://www.gesundheit-braucht-fitness.de. 

This detailed expert report was well received and was, according to our information, taken into account in the preparation of the guidelines in North Rhine-Westphalia. 

Shortly afterwards the chair received a request from NL Actief to advise Dutch fitness studios on the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission by aerosol in fitness studios. For this purpose Prof. Dr. Giorgio Buonanno was recruited, whose expertise is infection control in buildings, and again the Scottish virologist Prof. Dr. Roger Everett and the research assistant Dr. Martin Schönfelder. Within one week, the team of scientists prepared a detailed analysis of the SARS-CoV-2 infection risk via aerosol in gyms and how such infections can be controlled e.g. by building ventilation strategies, limitation of user numbers, prohibition of high intensity exercise etc. in such a way that the risk is not higher than e.g. in restaurants, hairdressers or churches. 

The team of the Chair of Sports Biology sees itself as a scientific partner for fitness studios that make an important contribution to health and fitness in Germany and worldwisde. Therefore it was important for us to help gyms with maximum commitment, so that gyms can safely reopen whilst the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.