Whether you’re returning to the gym or the playing field, you need to continue to be cautious while exercising in a new world of social distancing and sanitization. As the head physician for two professional sports teams, the notion of “playing it safe” is taking on an entirely different meaning this year and there are several ways to practice, play, and compete while protecting your immune system.
The return to sports timeline will vary from state to state and county to county, but as you and your family contemplate returning to sports or organized exercise programs, keep these tips in mind.
Sharing isn’t caring
This may be the only time you tell your family that sharing isn’t caring when it comes to sharing equipment like helmets, face masks, lacrosse or hockey sticks, or other equipment that can be passed from one athlete to another. This is especially true for water bottles.
Clean, clean, clean yourself and the equipment
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for keeping yourself germ free during this time—like washing your hands and taking your temperature before going to work—translate to the gym and field too. If you have a temperature over 99.5 don’t go to practice or the gym. Be sure to wipe down equipment before and after use with an alcohol-based cleanser. Masks are recommended indoors and should be considered outdoors, especially for higher risk athletes with asthma, diabetes, or other health conditions.
Alter your schedule
Consider going to the gym or hitting the court at non-peak hours. Another tip I’m sharing with my athletes is to shower at home as much as possible to avoid shared locker rooms and restrooms.
Continue to eat fresh fruits and vegetables daily as they are packed with essential vitamins and are a good sources of hydration. Vitamin D is important, especially if you are training indoors, as well as other immune-supporting nutrients like zinc, vitamin C, garlic (yes, garlic!), curcumin and selenium. Read more about nutrition for immunity in Persona’s Medical Advisory Board Immunity Guide.
Hydration is key especially during warm weather and mask wearing as many people may forego drinking while wearing a mask. Heat exhaustion is going to be more prevalent in athletes wearing masks, so be cognizant to stay on top of hydration.
You don’t need to forego exercising or playing a sport you love—you need to be smarter about it now. In fact, research shows that you can support your immunity by finding just the right balance of exercise—the key is not to overdo it as over-exercise can make you more vulnerable to most viral illnesses (1). Play it safe by protecting yourself and your teammates or gym mates in this new world.