As increased measures are being taken to halt the spread of coronavirus, many of us find ourselves questioning whether it's still safe to do some of the things we'd previously never considered a risk - like hitting the gym for a workout.
While fitness spaces can be notoriously sweaty environments, according to microbiology lecturer at the University of Sussex, Edward Wright, they are no more likely to be breeding grounds than any shared space. Wright told the Telegraph: "As long as people using (gym equipment) wash their hands before and after their exercise, refrain from touching their face in between and avoid close contact, any risk of undertaking these activities will be mitigated."
Fitness equipment has been noted as a happy home for germs: a 2016 study by US company FitRated, which rates and compares fitness equipment, found free weights can carry 362 times more germs than the average toilet seat.
But when it comes to coronavirus spread, Wright explained to the Telegraph that while fitness centres may feel like petri dishes for the disease, sweating in a shared space doesn't raise one's likelihood of contracting coronavirus to any significant degree.
And although there is currently no information specific to gyms, the Ministry of Health notes: "the situation and our response to it is changing all the time. For the latest advice, keep an eye on our website."
New Zealand gyms are reportedly taking additional measures to increase hygiene and awareness among customers. And despite increasing concerns over people congregating in shared spaces, Les Mills Head of club operations, Brett Sutton, told the Herald "last week was their second-highest attendance in clubs this year."
They also noted an increase in their On Demand service, an app which offers workouts and classes that can be accessed from anywhere.
READ MORE: • Five ways to work out without setting foot in a gym
Last week Les Mills released a statement to customers on their Facebook page and website stressing vigilence in wiping down equipment and hand washing. They also reiterated staying away from their fitness centres if you feel unwell.
The gym giant also linked to the Ministry of Health website and shared information on self-isolation and where to get help if you are showing any symptoms. They've also put out a "Been Away? Stay Away" message reflecting international travel rules for New Zealand that came into effect earlier this week.
Sutton says COVID-19 is top of mind for the company, as is keeping members and staff safe.
"Like other businesses we're following the Ministry's guidelines, and sharing how to best avoid getting the virus ...
"We're encouraging gymgoers to be extra mindful when it comes to washing hands and personal hygiene, and reminding people to stay away from the gym if they feel ill. On top of that we've taken steps to increase our already extensive cleaning regime, and are keeping members and staff as informed as we can."
In a similar move, Jetts gym told the Herald it's increasing the frequency of cleaning and sanitisation in their clubs, as well as educating staff and members on best practices and providing hand sanitisers for use.
The gym has also asked staff to declare their health and travel status and self-isolate for 14 days if they have been outside the country.
AnyTime Fitness has also introduced additional measures to "ensure our facilities remain safe for our members."
A spokesperson says clubs have increased cleaning schedules, provided additional wipes, sanitisers and disinfectant, recommended that all members use a towel during their workout as well as wiping down equipment before and after use. Clubs are also closing periodically to undergo deep sanitising cleans.
The Herald has also contacted Snap Fitness and F45 for comment.