The UK has returned to a three-tier system after the second lockdown ended on December 1. Whilst the new system has stricter rules than those before the second lockdown, gyms and leisure centres, along with outdoor sports, can reopened across England in all three tiers.
Last week, the government announced which areas are in which tiers under the new ‘Covid winter plan’, with Manchester, Birmingham, Kent, Yorkshire, the North East and parts of Essex falling into the highest tier with the toughest restrictions. You can check which tier your area is in using our postcode tool.
Can I go to the gym?
Under a revised tier system, gyms are allowed to open in all tiers, while recreational sport, including golf, tennis and organised team sports can resume.
In Tier 1 – medium level: Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can take place, provided the Rule of Six is followed.
In Tier 2 – high level: Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors. They are only permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with or share a support bubble with, or for youth or disability sport.
In Tier 3 – very high level: Under the old tier system gyms were closed but they can now remain open.
People are also allowed to take part in outdoor sports such as golf and tennis, as well as amateur team sports such as Sunday-league football.
Gyms in Tier 3 are not allowed to run classes – this includes HIIT groups and yoga. However, members of the fitness industry are expected to ask ministers to re-think these restrictions.
Following the launch of the Telegraph’s Keep Kids Active campaign, children’s sports are also expected to resume in all tiers.
Do I need to wear a mask in a post-lockdown gym?
Before the latest lockdown, masks were not mandatory in the gym. It is uncertain whether this will be the case now gyms have reopened.
As it stands, masks are not mandatory, but some gyms may have their own rules.
Adidas and the gym company Rebel have both launched their own ranges of face masks designed to adapt to the face for comfort during physical activity.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed this and said: “We have not taken a decision to require the wearing of face masks in respect of gyms.”
Some popular chains have announced they will not be asking their customers to wear a mask because they have put in “other measures” to ensure people are safe and social distancing.
Boutique joint 1Rebel is just one example of a place which has overhauled how it operates, populating its entrances with a thermal imaging fever-testing machine that will deliver entrants’ results to the (perspex clad) reception computer in five seconds; outside the spin studio, tape along the floor marks where attendees are to stand, at a distance, before class begins.
Are runners required to wear face masks?
Not really. Under the previous tier system, people should “wear a face covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops”, the government document said.
In crowded areas, this advice could extend to runners but officially there’s no advice requiring people who are exercising in a wide open space to wear a mask. As long as you are practising social distancing, it shouldn’t be necessary to wear a face covering while exercising.
However, several images have cropped up on social media, including a tweet by Arsenal football club which showed one of their players wearing an Adidas face mask. The caption read ‘the new normal’.
“No reason comes to my mind that we should be recommending face masks to be used during exercise. It would be expected that people should be socially distanced during exercise,” said Dr Ben Killingley, Consultant in Acute Medicine and Infectious Diseases at University College London Hospital.
However, many professionals are in agreement that wearing a mask is more about preventing the spread of Covid-19 to others, rather than protecting yourself, particularly if you are asymptomatic. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 42 per cent of 78 close contacts of Covid-19 patients in a hospital in Wuhan, China, showed no symptoms of the disease.
If you are going to be jogging in a highly populated area, it might be advisable to keep a face mask in your pocket and put it on as you pass any crowds of people.
Is wearing a face mask while exercising harmful?
There’s no scientific consensus on either the benefits, or the dangers, of wearing a face mask while exercising, primarily because little research has been done into the area.
In May, a man’s left lung collapsed after he jogged for two and a half miles while wearing a face mask in China. The doctors found that his left lung was punctured and had shrunk by 90 per cent, a condition that they believe was caused by the high pressure in the man’s organ due to the fact that he carried out intense exercising while wearing a mask. Dr Chen Baojun, a chief medic from the Wuhan hospital, warned that people should avoid wearing face masks while exercising as the face-coverings could obstruct the circulation of oxygen.
However, these incidents are very rare, and it’s likely that there were underlying health conditions, or other factors such as an ill-fitting mask or over-exertion, at play.
Some professionals have advised against high intensity exercise, such as running, while wearing a face mask. Speaking on This Morning in May, Dr Hilary Jones advised viewers that wearing a face covering while exercising might not be a good idea.
“If you’re exercising outdoors and you’re jogging you don’t really need a mask, as long as you’re not with other people,” he said. “There’s no guidance to suggest you should wear a mask or it’s beneficial. In fact, it’s covering your mouth and your nose, it’s inhibiting your breathing to some extent and some people would say you’re rising the rate of levels of carbon dioxide you’re breathing out when you’re exercising and that’s probably not a good idea.”
However, the research is still in very early stages. “Studies assessing the effects (including CO2 levels) of healthcare workers wearing a respirator (tight fitting masks) have been done and they do show (through several mechanisms) that they can impair work performance,” said Dr Killingley. “However, I’m not aware of similar studies of other types of facemask and certainly not related to general public use.”
What type of mask should I wear when I’m exercising?
From floral prints to heavy-duty respirators, it seems there’s a face mask cropping up for every occasion. But with Adidas and Rebel jumping on the trend, is there a specific type we should be using?
“A number of companies are producing face masks to run in, and these are for style and using materials to prevent becoming excessively damp – breathing through the mask will produce water,” said Professor Andrew Lane, Professor of Sport and Learning at the University of Wolverhampton. “The mask should be clean and so having several will help. The material needs to be porous. Many runners use a buff as a mask.”
To help support our “journey back into the world” Rebel have introduced a face mask made out of soft, breathable fabric that’s washable, making it safe for a sweaty exercise. They also provide FFP 1 grade protection.
Will exercising with a face mask affect my performance?
Whether you’re an experienced runner, or a lockdown newbie cyclist, everyone likes to perform to the best of their ability. But if you do decide to wear a face mask on your daily exercise, it’s likely that it will feel uncomfortable.
“There’s no question that people are going to find running with a mask more difficult,” said Prof Lane. “It will feel uncomfortable because the head is usually free and it’s a great way to get rid of hot air. Then you’ve got to breathe a bit harder to get through the barrier, which means your lungs are going to get a bit more of a work out.”
A face mask decreases the flow of air into your lungs, so you will have less oxygen in your blood stream; this means you can expect to fatigue quicker.
However, Prof Lane maintains that this isn’t likely to do any serious harm, and that it can actually be good training to breath through “a bit more resistance.”
It’s likely that you will be getting enough oxygen when you exercise with a face mask on, but if you do experience unusual signs such as lightheadedness, dizziness, extreme shortness of breath or numbness and tingling, stop exercising, take off your mask and take a break.
Can runners pass on coronavirus?
The short answer is yes, but it’s unlikely. Scientists generally agree that the most likely route of transmission for the coronavirus is through aerosol droplets that are spread through coughing and sneezing. However, air circulation outdoors seems to strongly inhibit transmission of the coronavirus. In a study of more than 7,300 coronavirus cases in China, just one was connected to outdoor transmission.
“The bottom line is that viruses, like all pathogens, like indoor crowded spaces,” Lawrence Young, a Professor of Molecular Oncology at Warwick Medical School previously told The Telegraph. “Like many of these seasonal respiratory viruses, this virus is particularly sensitive to high humidity and sunlight. That’s why we anticipate the levels of virus will decrease over the summer.”
In April, a Belgian-Dutch research team self-published a draft report advising runners and cyclists that they should take extra care while passing others on the road, warning them that respiratory droplets that could potentially contain coronavirus might spread further than the 6 feet buffer recommended by public health officials.
The news went viral online, with many sharing an alarming graphic which showed a runner spreading ‘droplets’ – represented by simulated coloured dots – onto another man. However, the authors later published a follow up acknowledging that the study- which hadn’t yet been peer reviewed- was just an engineering wind-flow model.
How can I stay safe when I’m exercising?
It’s still important to take extra care when exercising in public. For Prof Lane, appropriate etiquette to ensure social distancing is the number one thing to consider to stay safe.
“If you can, go for a run where you’re not going encounter many people,” says Prof Lane. “If you want to exercise with someone, run side by side with a good gap between each of you.”
He also maintains it’s important to be aware of the other people – both runners and pedestrians – on the pavement around you. “If there’s another runner coming towards you, shout ‘I’m going to the right’ so you avoid any zigzagging or collisions,” he said.
Will you be returning to the gym once the lockdown restrictions are lifted? Tell us in the comments below
Source: The Telegraph Travels