YMCA moving group exercises outside during COVID-19 pandemic

Infectious disease specialists discuss the safety
Posted at 12:31 PM, Jul 13, 2020

Across the country, YMCA locations are back in business.

That means members are working out inside gyms again, doing everything from running on treadmills to lifting heavy weights.

Now, in an effort to create an even safer environment for its members, the Downtown Denver YMCA is taking its group exercise classes outside.

“My first priority inside before COVID and now with COVID is to keep them safe,” group exercise instructor Lamar Sims said about member safety.

After reopening, Sims is leading a strength and conditioning class on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol Building.

This former district attorney turned group exercise instructor isn’t sure how COVID-19 will impact his class sizes. But he’s absolutely sure that safety is a priority for the millions of YMCA members.

“We’re working on making sure people are doing good spacing,” he said. “So, we are not going to have any of the partner type exercises, partner spotting, partner stretching that we used to do.”

Infectious disease specialists say this kind of spacing is paramount during the pandemic.

“If you’re able to have that distancing there’s less spread,” said Sheryl Zajdowicz, Ph.D., a biology professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Zajdowicz believes exercising is much safer outside than inside but says there are still several concerns with intense training in a group setting.

“When you’re working out, you’re breathing heavier and potentially coughing and there’s still some risk that could be associated there,” she said.

That risk, however, is worth it to some members.

“There’s nothing like it,” Paul Garland said about group exercise classes. “This is the one thing that I miss the most about the whole shelter in place.”

Garland says this kind of workout impacts his mind and his body.

“The better I feel physically, the better I feel emotionally,” he said.

Moving forward, the YMCA will continue to do group exercise classes outside as long as COVID-19 is still a concern.