As gyms around the UK close their doors following official government advice around the coronavirus, fitness instructors are turning to the internet to help their members keep fit.
With high levels of humidity and physical contact, sweaty gym mats and equipment are good places for microbes, such as the coronavirus, to fester and spread.
This makes them a good place to avoid during the crisis if you can – although many currently remain open.
Online workouts, either live-streamed or from a digital library, are designed to make use of space, offer variety, and turn almost any environment into an instant gym.
The general public can take advantage of ‘custom content’ that has been designed specifically to facilitate work-outs at home, with little to no equipment required.
Here are some of the options that gym addicts and home workers alike have as they enter a possibly months-long period of social isolation.
Gyms have been closing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on high-contact surfaces such as matts and dumbbells
US fitness company Snap Fitness announced it will be providing free 90-day access to its virtual workout platform to help those self-isolating.
The company has partnered with FitnessOnDemand – a virtual platform dubbed ‘the Netflix of gyms’ that lets users pick workout videos on their devices.
The two will offer access to the platform for all those looking to ‘stay fit, stay healthy and stay home’ during the pandemic.
An almost deserted Snap Fitness branch in Sydney, Australia. The US firm is providing its vitual workout platform to help those self-isolating
‘We know that exercise and movement are contributing factors to a person’s mental wellness and ultimately, a well-balanced life,’ said Weldon Spangler, CEO of Lift Brands, parent company of Snap Fitness and FitnessOnDemand.
‘As people are asked to practice social distancing and amidst gym and business closures – for many, working out at home provides not only a way to stay fit, but also a way to stay well, both body and mind.
‘We want to provide help where we can as responsible members of our local communities and corporate citizens of the globe.
‘This is about making sure everyone is healthy and safe while we weather this storm together.’
Snap Fitness is bringing free online workouts to all with no membership required on its website.
Gym branch Barry’s said it is voluntarily closing its workout rooms in the UK but will provide Instrgram users globally with digital gym classes via Instagram Live
Fitness studio Barry’s announced this week that it will be closing all of its studios – known as ‘red rooms’ – across the UK.
‘The health and well-being of our family at Barry’s is our top priority and we remain dedicated to keeping you healthy and strong,’ it said.
However, instead it will be bringing its ultra-intense bootcamp-style workouts to living rooms across the country via Instagram Live.
The gym is posting workout times with some of its founders to its Instagram page, while the workout videos themselves will be streamed live through Instagram Stories.
London-based Core Collective is temporarily closed due to the spread of COVID-19.
‘We’ve made the heart-breaking decision to temporarily close our doors,’ it announced on Instagram on Tuesday.
‘We know that we must do our part to support the government advice to avoid all social contact so that we can get to the other side of this outbreak together.’
However, the company will be launching its own on-demand streaming service, called ‘CCTV’, so its customers can keep working out from their homes.
CCTV launches on the gym’s website on Monday, March 23, and will be available on phones, laptops and desktops.
Aside from an internet connection, users of the service, which will cost £12.99 per month, will need a set of dumbbells and a kettlebell.
High-end London gym branch Psycle has been posting the times of its virtual workouts on Instagram
Similar to Barry’s, Psycle is now offering three live workouts a day on Instagram TV.
Wednesday’s classes consist of a cardio workout, an intense 15-minute exercise and a 30-minute ‘sculpting workout’.
The gym has four studios in London, all of which are closed since the government’s new measures to reduce unnecessary travel and social contact.
‘We’ll be fostering as much connection with you as possible on our social channels and we’re exploring new ways to stay connected with you both online and in real life,’ it said on Instagram.
British gym chain David Lloyd is keeping calm and carrying on by keeping its branches open, although it is reducing capacity of its classes and will soon be launching virtual classes on the David Lloyd mobile app
British company David Lloyd has said it is working to ensure that gym clubs around the country are as clean and safe as they can be.
But rather than closing all its branches, it is reducing group exercise class capacity by 50 per cent to ensure greater space per person as a way to reduce the virus’s spread.
For those who miss out, it said it will soon be launching for its members on-demand virtual workouts, some of which that will be live, it said in a blog post.
The workouts and classes will be accessible through email and the David Lloyd mobile app.
US firm Planet Fitness has temporarily closed all its corporate stores, effective Tuesday, March 17th
US chain Planet Fitness has recently closed the last of its fitness centres that were still open and is encouraging users to download their app for access to fitness content and more than 500 exercise routines.
It is also hosting ‘home work-ins’ that will be live-streamed to its YouTube and Facebook pages five days a week from Monday to Friday.
These are free to view for anyone in the world – however, because they’re being streamed from at 7pm ET, UK fitness fans will have to stay up until 11pm to catch them.
There will be no equipment needed and all classes will be 20 minutes or less.
In a blog post, Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau said its stores will reopen as soon as possible and urged other gym companies to take similar steps.
‘The coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and its impact on our members, team members, and communities is unprecedented and changing rapidly,’ he said.
‘The health and wellbeing of our Planet Fitness Family is our number one priority.’
All of Everyone Active’s nearly 200 gyms in the UK are still open in the country, although it says that it’s taking coronavirus ‘very seriously’ and is keeping track of official advice from Public Health England.
It’s asking its customers to use the anti-bacterial cleaning sprays and paper towels in gym areas to wipe down their station before and after use and encouraging frequent hand washing.
The gym also points out that it’s safe to go swimming in its pools, as the water and the chlorine will kill the virus.
Everyone Active does however provide virtual group fitness classes, where groups of gym-goers can be guided through a routine by ‘world-class’ instructor on a big screen.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?
What is the coronavirus?
A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.
The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.
Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.
The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.
Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals.
‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses).
‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’
The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.
By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.
The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.
Where does the virus come from?
According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.
The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.
Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat.
A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.
However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.
Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.
‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’
So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it?
Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.
It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.
Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.
Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.
‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’
If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die.
‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.
‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’
How does the virus spread?
The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.
It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.
Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.
What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?
Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.
If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.
In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.
Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why.
What have genetic tests revealed about the virus?
Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world.
This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.
Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.
However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.
This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.
More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.
How dangerous is the virus?
The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.
Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.
However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.
Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.
Can the virus be cured?
The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.
Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.
No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.
The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.
Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.
People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.
And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).
However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.
Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?
The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.
Previously, the UN agency said most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.
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