Coronavirus in Sweden: These are the guidelines for sport and exercise

Despite the wide spread of the coronavirus in Sweden, the Public Health Agency has encouraged residents to continue keeping active. But they've issued guidelines to help you make sure you do this in a safe way, without contributing to the spread of the disease.

Coronavirus in Sweden: These are the guidelines for sport and exercise
Going for a walk or run outside is a recommended activity for people of all ages, as long as you aren't showing any cold- or flu-like symptoms. Photo: Thomas Brun / NTB scanpix / TT

Firstly, there are two groups of people who should not do any group activities at all under current recommendations.

People aged over 70 appear to be most vulnerable to the virus, so this group has been asked not to participate in any group physical activity, especially indoors. This applies even to people who feel fit and healthy, with no underlying conditions.

If you're in this group or another high-risk group, you should find other ways to keep active while maintaining a distance from other people, such as walking outdoors (and avoiding getting too close to anyone else — aim for at least a two-metre distance) or carrying out physical activities at home.

People who are experiencing any kind of illness are also asked to not only abstain from sporting activities, but to stay completely self-isolated at home for at least two days after they become completely symptom-free. That applies even if the symptoms are mild, such as a slight cough or sore throat, and you would ordinarily carry on as usual.

Online classes may be a good option if you're unable to, or cannot, exercise in public, and there's now a wider range than ever. Photo: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

If you are completely symptom-free and aged under 70, under Public Health Agency guidelines you can continue to take part in sports as long as you take a few extra precautions.

The agency asks everyone in Sweden to limit activities that involve close contact, and to choose other exercises instead. It suggests showering and changing at home, rather than in a shared changing room, if that is possible.

It also states that you should not share water bottles, mouthguards, towels, or other items which might transfer saliva from person to person. 

If you're in charge of organising a sport activity, you should take steps to avoid crowding and make sure there are opportunities for participants to wash their hands thoroughly and regularly.

Places such as gyms and swimming pools aren't included in the new rules which put a stop to events over 50 people. However, organisers of events at these locations or events for under 50 people are still asked to carry out a risk assessment (link in Swedish) and adjust the activity as needed, to reduce the risk of spreading infections.

Gyms have been asked to make sure that shared equipment, such as treadmills and weights, are cleaned regularly. 

The gym chain SATS closed all its branches for two weeks as a precaution during the outbreak, but has now reopened, albeit with some extra measures in place such as the ones listed above, and cancellation of its classes for pensioners.

And gyms all around Sweden have adapted their routines to fit in with the new guidelines. This also means steps such as reducing the limit on participants in fitness classes, making hand sanitiser widely available, and even increasing their offer of online classes to encourage people to stay at home where possible. 

Many chains have also relaxed their rules around cancelling or freezing membership, or choosing which branch you use. This is to encourage people to stay at home if they're at all ill and to minimise the need for people to travel far from home (and therefore come into contact with more people).

So if you usually train near work and are now working from home, it might be possible to use a more conveniently located branch, and if you prefer to avoid the gym during the outbreak, it may be easier to cancel or put on hold your membership than it usually would be.

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