American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

As of this writing, more than 62% of adults in America have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and approximately 52% are fully vaccinated. Unfortunately, questions remain regarding what exactly this means in terms of returning to pre-pandemic activities. Part of that confusion stems from variances in rules from state to state or even county to county, not to mention personal choices made by individual business owners. Couple all of that with personal preferences regarding when and where to wear masks and maintain social distance and you have a recipe for confusion.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released guidelines for individuals who are fully vaccinated. According to the CDC, if you are fully vaccinated, “You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

There has been some confusion as some states have begun rolling back their mask mandates in response to this statement from the CDC. Both facility owners and members are understandably having a difficult time navigating these rapidly changing guidelines and policies while remaining mindful of the choices being made by other individuals.

So, what does all of this mean in terms of returning to the gym or getting back to your pre-COVID exercise routine? Here are some evidence-based health- and fitness-related guidelines.

Refocusing on your Health

If you are fully vaccinated, now is a good time to schedule missed or overdue appointments with your doctor or dentist and get back to your pre-pandemic exercise routine. And don’t lose sight of the fact that health includes mental health. Focusing on your personal wellness through self-care routines you may have abandoned over the course of the pandemic is an important element of getting “back to normal.”

Exercising Outdoors

Many people have rediscovered the joys of outdoor exercise over the past year-plus. Taking off your mask and getting in a quick workout or playing games with family in the backyard brought a sense of normalcy in a time that was decidedly not normal. That said, some people remained hesitant to get out on the hiking trails or walk in their local park due to concerns about crossing paths with someone who is not wearing a mask. If you are fully vaccinated, you can set those fears aside and remove your mask in all outdoor settings. Of course, if wearing a mask or carrying one to put on in those situations makes you more comfortable, there’s no downside to doing so.

Exercising in Groups

According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can gather indoors or outdoors with others without wearing masks or physical distancing. Many people are understandably excited to have the opportunity to spend time with friends and loves ones they’ve been communicating with only through their cellphone or computer screen. It’s important to note that these guidelines extend to include exercising in groups, so don’t be afraid of attending group fitness classes, joining walking groups or playing sports or games with friends and family.

Returning to the Gym

Right now, we’re in a time of transition. Every local official, business owner and individual is trying to determine the best course of action that embraces the slow and steady return to normal while still adhering to local guidelines and keeping themselves, their employees and their loved ones safe and healthy. If you decide you’re ready to return to the gym—and vaccinated people can feel comfortable doing so—it’s important to remain mindful and respectful of the people around you by following the guidelines of the facility, which may include social distancing and enhanced cleaning and sanitation practices. If you’re unsure whether a particular facility is safe, ask questions and be observant. Consider things like air filtration, the distance between machines or group exercise participants and other safety measures. Finally, think about the type of exercise you’ll be performing—walking on a treadmill in a well-ventilated space is less risky than crowded indoor cycling class—and take whatever precautions necessary to make yourself comfortable.