How and when are Germany’s gyms reopening after the coronavirus shutdown?

How and when are Germany’s gyms reopening after the coronavirus shutdown?
Hassib Pektas trains in a McFit gym in Cologne on Monday May 11th.
Restrictions on doing sport in Germany have been eased and now some gyms are opening. How can they do it safely?

We're aiming to give you the most up-to-date information but check the federal government coronavirus advice and your local government for updates.

Is exercise allowed?

Yes. Throughout the coronavirus crisis – even when lockdown was in full force across Germany – exercise has been seen as an essential activity and people have been allowed to leave their homes to do it.

However, fitness studios, sports centres and swimming pools were forced to close in mid-March in a bid to slow down the spread of coronavirus. Team sports were also not allowed.

What’s changed?

The federal government last week said exercise outdoors in small groups that didn’t involve contact would be allowed again. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED – Germany's plan for post-lockdown life with coronavirus

States are putting in place their own rules for this. For example in Bavaria, “contact-free individual sports with distance” such as tennis, athletics, golf, sailing, or horse riding have been allowed to take place since May 11th.

Training alone or in small groups of up to five people outdoors is permitted. But changing rooms must remain closed at the moment.

In general, authorities are particularly worried about high intensity sport that involves people sweating and getting out of breath, and changing rooms where coronavirus could spread more easily between people.

In Berlin, sports clubs can resume training from May 15th under certain conditions. Training is only allowed in small groups of up to a maximum of eight people (including coaches) and in compliance with the distance regulations (1.5 metre distance between people).

Competitions in contact-free outdoor sports will be permitted again from May 25th, provided that they take place within the framework of a usage and hygiene concept of the respective sports association.

Beach areas and open-air pools can be be opened again from May 25th. Operators must get the approval of the sports administration before opening and have a special plan in place.

In Hamburg, outdoor team sports will be allowed with distance conditions from May 13th.

READ ALSO: 'First phase of coronavirus pandemic behind us,' says Merkel

What about gyms and other types of sports centres?

The timetable for opening fitness studios, dance centres, climbing gyms and other facilities is being decided regionally. 

North Rhine-Westphalia allowed gyms to reopen under strict conditions from Monday May 11th.

The central state of Hesse is set to follow from May 15th.

Baden-Württemberg’s fitness studios are expected to open later in the month although the exact date has not yet been finalised.

Hamburg is also putting a plan in place to open gyms later in May. A concept for the use of open-air and indoor swimming pools is to be presented at the beginning of June.

In other federal states, fitness studios will remain closed for the time being, but keep an eye on your local government website for updates on the situation which is changing rapidly.

How can gyms open safely?

Last week, the German Industry Association for Fitness and Health (DIFG) presented an opening plan for gyms with expert opinions from scientists at TU Munich and the IST University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf.

A man training in a McFit gym in Cologne on Monday May 11th. Photo: DPA

Their concept contains this 5-point plan:

  • Employee training
  • Information for members
  • Adaptation of gym operation
  • Protection of Covid-19 risk groups
  • Procedure planning for when there are coronavirus infections

Scientists created a checklist for fitness studio owners. It includes, for example, a guaranteed minimum distance of 1.5 metres between equipment and users, making mouth-and-nose protection obligatory or at least recommending it, more frequent cleaning as well as disinfecting, and protecting reception staff with a Plexiglas screen.

The plan also said contactless payment should be possible, and the number of members in the studio has to be limited.

High-intensity exercise should currently be avoided, with the focus on strength and moderate endurance training instead.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about travelling within Germany this summer

Saunas should be closed and swimming pools should only be opened if a minimum distance is guaranteed.

What’s happening in North Rhine-Westphalia?

People in this western state are now able to train again after the first gyms opened there on Monday May 11th.

Gyms are only allowed to operate with strict rules in place which have been issued by the NRW government and are based on recommendations from the DIFG, reported newspaper RP Online.

Here are some of the rules for an idea of how it works:

  • There can be no more than one customer per seven square metre of space in the gym
  • Customers and employees with Covid-19 symptoms are not allowed to enter facilities
  • Gym users must wash or disinfect their hands after entering the gym
  • Customer contact data, as well as the time of entering and leaving the gym or business premises and participation in certain courses, must be documented (after consent has been obtained) to enable contact person tracking
  • Changing rooms are to be opened only for the safekeeping of customers' private items in lockers
  • The use of showers, swimming pools, saunas and solariums etc is not allowed in NRW at the moment, but some facilities could open at the end of May
  • The practice of sports with unavoidable physical contact is not allowed. High-intensity endurance training (indoor cycling, HIIT training, etc) is not permitted because it could spread infections more than other training
  • For classes, access to the room must be regulated so that there is a minimum distance of 2m between each person
  • Fitness equipment has to be arranged or cordoned off so that the distance between two pieces of sports equipment is at least 3 metres (guaranteed minimum distance 1.5 m plus exercise room and training equipment). Ideally, only every second piece of equipment should be used.
  • Employees must wear a face mask – unless there are medical reasons for not doing so
  • Trainers and course instructors may – if necessary for the performance of their work – get rid of their mouth-nose cover, provided that the rules of distance are observed
  • Gym-goers must bring their own towels to use in the gym
  • All sports equipment as well as other contact surfaces (eg lockers) must be cleaned after each use
  • Sports equipment, such as mats, where contact surfaces are difficult to disinfect, must not be made available to customers
  • Customers have to be told about the new rules and there should be signs up in the gym too

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