Brisbane gym owners frustrated by ‘confusing’ directives about when to use face masks

Brisbane gym owners frustrated by ‘confusing’ directives about when to use face masks
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Despite Queensland Health clarifying that people can remove masks when exercising indoors if out of breath or puffing, Brisbane gym owners say the rules remain confusing, calling for the health advice to be clearer for different types of exercise.

Key points:

  • A mask should be worn when exercising indoor but exceptions apply, such as if you have a medical condition
  • You can also remove your mask when exercising indoors where you are out of breath or puffing
  • However, gym owners say the health advice should be clearer for different styles of exercise

Health authorities have made mask wearing in certain indoor locations compulsory for millions of residents in the Greater Brisbane region until 1:00am on January 22.

Initially the health advice stated that masks must be worn at indoor gyms, along with shopping centres, supermarkets, retail outlets, places of worship, libraries, cinemas, airports and on planes, public transport and taxis.

In a press conference yesterday, Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young confirmed masks must be worn at indoor gyms even if equipment was separated by 1.5 metres.

“We know if you are exercising to any degree, you are huffing and puffing and blowing that virus out,” she said.

However Queensland Health had since clarified its advice and said people must wear a face mask when exercising indoor but exceptions applied, for example if you have a medical condition.

It said you may also remove your mask when exercising indoors where you are out of breath or puffing.

You do not have to wear a mask indoors if you are doing strenuous aerobic exercise such as high-intensity interval training, cycling, running, team sport or while swimming.

Peak fitness industry body Fitness Australia said given the updated health advice, it was advising people to wear a face mask when entering a fitness facility and to remove it if engaging in strenuous physical activity.

It also encouraged gym staff to wear masks at all times and have extra face masks on hand and readily available for members when working out.

What is the perceived exertion definition?

Owner of Studio 99 in Brisbane’s West End, Matt Tranter, said he was glad the gym was able to open back up but it had been confusing what health advice to tell members.

Confused about Greater Brisbane’s new mask rules?

Face masks are mandatory until January 22 in Greater Brisbane. Here is a full list of where and when you need to wear one.

“We’re trying to keep people healthy and fit, and we want to keep them safe too,” he said.

“It’s been a bit difficult getting the right message out in terms of when we need to wear masks and when we don’t need to wear masks, and what is perceived as exertion in the gym.

“If you’re coming to the gym and you’re not exerting yourself, you’re probably doing the wrong thing — but what is the [perceived exertion] definition? Who’s defining it?

“We want to do the right thing by the community and not be part of the problem.”

Personal trainer Matt Tranter wearing a mask stands in front of gym equipment.
Owner of Studio 99 gym, Matt Tranter, says the rules around whether or not to wear a mask at the gym have been confusing.(ABC News: Phoebe Hosier)

‘Confusion between different gyms’

Mr Tranter said it would be helpful it the health advice was clearer for different styles of exercise.

Queensland COVID-19 snapshot:

“There’s just confusion between different gyms like boxing or jujutsu … just a clearer message would be fantastic,” he said.

“It’s at the start of the year when people have New Year’s resolutions and we’re trying to get people into the gym which at the best of times is a tough task.

“So it’s hard to portray the right message and make sure we’re doing the right thing by our members and in our marketing as well.

“We’re using common sense, following the guidelines, and just being smart about it.

“We have enough room in the gym that we can distance to the 4 square metres, so just staying out of each other’s personal space and getting people to wear masks as much as possible.”Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from January 12 with our coronavirus blog.

At today’s press conference Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk clarified masks could be removed for strenuous exercise while indoors.

“For strenuous activity you can take the mask off, but otherwise you have to wear the mask inside,” she said.

When asked if that advice also included gym classes she replied: “That’s my understanding, yes.”

Ms Palaszczuk later tweeted the Queensland Health advice about wearing masks and exercising.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said it was important gyms were also regularly wiping down equipment.

“It is not enough just to wear masks,” Ms D’Ath said.

“We have given clarification as to when masks need to be worn in gyms that are indoors, but it is important that we do not relax in relation to gyms simply because people are wearing masks.

“We must make sure that we are wiping down equipment as well.”


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