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Gym rules prescribe four square metres for each client

Gyms and yoga centers that open doors for clients from Wednesday would need to adopt multiple precautions such as reserving 4 square metres for each client and spacing equipment six feet apart to curb the spread of the new coronavirus infection.

The Union health ministry on Monday issued guidelines for gyms and yoga centers that outline measures to be taken by both the institutions as well as their clients and seek to minimize contact between staff members and clients.

The guidelines advise people aged above 65 years, children below 10 years, pregnant women and persons with underlying health disorders to stay away from gyms.

All staff and clients would need to wear face masks, except during the periods when clients are engaged in exercise or yoga when they may wear visors, as masks — especially N95 masks — during exercise could cause breathing difficulty.

The guidelines require gym and yoga centers to ensure that each person gets at least 4sqm of the floor area and any equipment, including cardio and strength machines, should be placed six feet apart wherever feasible to facilitate social distancing.

Tens of thousands of gyms and yoga centres across India have been shut since the lockdown in March. Gyms are among the worst hit sectors, said Shrikant Jadhav, general secretary of the Maharashtra Gym Owners’ Association in Pune, who estimates that 8,000 to 10,000 gyms have been closed in Maharashtra alone.

“Most gym owners pay rents for the premises — imagine our plight. No clients means no income for nearly five months. Gym owners have been unable to pay rent and trainers and other staff are selling vegetables, working as delivery boys to earn a living,” Jadhav told The Telegraph.

Maharashtra, he said, has decided that gyms will remain closed until at least August 31.

The Center’s guidelines allow states to exercise discretion depending on the epidemic’s local patterns.

The health ministry guidelines also do not permit gyms within containment zones to open. Local health authorities mark containment zones around cases or clusters of cases.

Gyms and yoga centers that do open would need to create specific pathways for entry and exit, ensure queues have a gap of six feet, promote card-based contact-less payments, disinfect areas and equipment, and restrict the number of staff or clients in specific workout areas and change rooms.

Jadhav said the gym association has already offered to adopt precautions. “We have made several representations to local leaders saying we’ll ensure that only 10 persons are accommodated in a 1,000sqft floor area. We will also sanitize equipment between consecutive clients,” he said.