Like many countries, Norway ordered the closure of all stadiums in March to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But unlike any other country, Norway has funded a rigorous study to determine whether the shutdown is really necessary.
Obviously, this is the first and only randomized trial to test whether people who exercise in the gym are at higher risk of coronavirus infection than those who are not restricted. Tentative answer after two weeks: No.
Therefore, this week, Norway responded to the research it funded and reopened all of its stadiums and adopted the same protective measures as in the study.
Dr. Michael Bretthauer, a cancer screening expert at the University of Oslo, said: “I personally think this can be generalized, but there is one thing to pay attention to.” Dr. Mette Kalager led the study. “In some places, there may be a lot of Covid, or people are not willing to comply with the restrictions.”
Norway is controlling its epidemic, and the number of new infections has declined. But the infection rate in Oslo, where the study was conducted, is similar to Boston, Oklahoma City and Trenton, New Jersey.
The trial began on May 22 and includes 5 gyms in Oslo. There are 3,764 members between the ages of 18 and 64 who have no potential medical conditions. Half of the members (1,896 people) were invited to return to their gym to exercise.
They are required to wash their hands and maintain a social distance: three feet for floor exercise and six feet for high-intensity classes. Subjects can use lockers, but not saunas or showers. They were not required to wear masks.
There are also 1868 gymnasium members as a comparison group. They were banned from returning to the stadium.
In the two weeks of the study, 79.5% of the members invited to use the gym participated at least once, while 38.4% of the members participated more than six times. Some people are overjoyed to restart their routine work.
The 53-year-old economist Goril Bjerkan lives in Baerum on the outskirts of Oslo. During the study, he ran three to four times a week, used a treadmill, took classes and conducted Strength Training.
She said: “It’s great to go back to the gym again after nearly 11 weeks of suspension.” “I doubt going to the mall is more risky than going to the gym.”
57-year-old architect Heide Tjom rode into Oslo by bicycle. She had the opportunity to return to the gym four times a week, where she worked with personal trainers and participated in aerobic classes.
Ms. Jom said: “Maintaining health is very important to me.” “I think this is important to my existence.”
During the study period, Oslo had 207 new coronavirus cases. The study participants and gym staff performed an infection check on June 8. (The participants are currently being tested for antibodies.)
Dr. Bretthauer and Dr. Kalager also checked Norwegian’s extensive electronic health record database to understand participants’ outpatient and hospital conditions.
result? The researchers found only one case of coronavirus. This person had not used the gym before being tested. Back to his workplace. Some participants visited the hospital, but suffered from other diseases in addition to the coronavirus Covid-19.
There was no difference in hospital visits between the two groups, and there was no outpatient visit or hospitalization due to coronavirus. The survey results were published online on Thursday, but have not yet been peer-reviewed or published.
Some experts believe that the results indicate that it is relatively safe to return to the gymnasium-but only in places with few infections.
Dr. Gordon Guyatt, a medical professor at McMaster University in Canada, said: “This shows that a low-prevalence environment is safe for gyms and everything else.” “You are highly unlikely to be infected.”
He added: “If the prevalence of your environment is much higher, we don’t know what will happen.”
But Jon Zelner, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, does not think the study is persuasive: “These findings do not tell me that even in Oslo, going to the gym is riskier than not going to the gym. , ” He says.
Dr. Zellner added that a larger study is needed in places with a relatively low prevalence to determine whether the virus is more likely to spread in gyms. In addition, a small number of people in a study can answer this question in a community with a high infection rate.
Dr. Zellner said such research may raise moral concerns because it may not be safe to send people to gyms in highly prevalent communities-“a little Catch-22.”
How low is the risk of reopening the gym and fitness center?
Dr. Gayat said that among the prevalence of society, in a community with a low prevalence, the risk of infection exceeds the risk.
He said: “You can’t stay locked forever.” “We will never get rid of this completely. In a low-prevalence environment, no matter where you are, whether it is a gym, grocery store, or even a restaurant, the risks are all Lower.”
Now, Dr. Brettauer and Dr. Kalager want to see if the social isolation measures they used in the study are necessary.
They hope to randomly assign 150 gyms to allow them to operate unrestricted or maintain them in place now, and then compare the infection rates among sports fans. The study is only in the planning stage.