Are gyms in public parks safe?

Are gyms in public parks safe?

With no sanitisation or cap on the number of users, gym equipment may not be so safe

Even after public parks reopened in May, the open-air gyms remained closed for public use. However, over the past few months, there has been a steady increase in the number of people relying on these facilities. (Above) A park at BTM layout. DH Photo by S

Mid-May parks in the city that had been closed to the public, thanks to the lockdown, reopened.  People gleefully returned to these spaces for their morning walks and jogging sessions. The open-air gyms and play areas for children, however, remained closed, until July. 

Concerns over safety still remain. Radhika Anilkumar, resident at Shanti Nagar, goes jogging at her nearby Richmond Town Park once a week. While she circles the park, she sees the gym equipment being used regularly.

“The different machines are kept at a distance from each other, and the parks are generally not crowded. However, I don’t think it is safe to be using them,” she says. Never having seen anyone sanitise these equipments, she believes, it is a risk to be using them.

“Go to the park during non-peak hours, for a walk or a run and get some fresh air. But, otherwise, just workout at home,” she suggests. 

Reuben Paul, a regular at Indiranagar Park, says that most people come to the park in groups of two to three. “The usual scene I have observed is that one person would use the equipment, and their friends will stand around. So imagine, four or five groups doing the same. It isn’t a crowd, but its definitely more people than I would consider safe,” he says. 

Since there are no temperature checks or any regulations on who comes, or any kind of control over who comes and
goes, there is a certain risk with using the gym.

“I guess, since its open-air, there seems to be a false sense of security. But, if this is the only space one can work out from, they should wipe down the surface before and after use,” he says. 

Doctors opinion

Doctors believe that even though the number of Covid-19 cases are showing a downward trend, the use of gyms in parks is still a matter of debate.

“The risk of transmission of the infection through contaminated surfaces, also known as fomite transmission, is much lesser than the usual direct respiratory droplet spread. However, as we may have asymptomatic positive cases in the community, the worry remains,” says Dr Jyothsna Krishnappa, senior consultant - internal medicine. 

People would be breathing heavily during exercise and and the tendency to touch their faces is still noticeable, she adds.

Outdoor gyms would be a much better option than poorly ventilated indoor gyms. But, the larger concern would be about the number of people using these equipments. As these are public spaces, it would be difficult to regulate access or even monitor the sanitation measures. “Adequate hygiene measures need to be maintained after each individual uses the equipment. Each person should also be responsible for their own safety and practice hand hygiene measures and physical distancing,” she adds. 

Sanitation practices

S Chandra Shekar, horticulture superintendent, says that the equipments are sanitised using sodium hypochlorite (bleaching powder) once a week.

“It was being cleaned every day, but now we have reduced the frequency,” he
says. 

The efforts to spread awareness about the virus has made the public cognisant of the risks.

“We have signboards on social distancing and wearing masks. But generally, almost everyone follows these rules by themselves,” he says.

The fear of the virus has also reduced the number of visitors, and the usage of these equipments in particular, considerably,” he adds.