News and Commentary

South Korea Imposes ‘Ridiculous’ Rules Banning High Speed On Treadmills, Fast Music At Gyms During COVID Spike
Indoor runner legs is walking slowly on the treadmill for light exercise closed up shot. - stock photo Indoor runner legs is walking slowly on the treadmill for light exercise closed up shot. junce via Getty Images
junce via Getty Images

South Korea took measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the country on Tuesday with the country’s capital of Seoul and nearby areas by instructing gyms on what kind of music they are allowed to play. 

According to the BBC, “Gyms in South Korea’s capital Seoul and its surrounding region have been told not to play music with a tempo higher than 120 beats per minute (bpm), in order to limit the spread of Covid-19.”

Treadmills will also only be allowed to reach a maximum speed of 6km/h (or 3.7 mph). People are also not permitted to use the showers at the gyms and must limit their time at indoor sports complexes to two hours. Health authorities have said that the limitations will prohibit people from breathing too quickly or getting sweat on one another. 

BBC reported: 

The move has been questioned by gym owners.

Kang Hyun-ku, who owns a gym in Seoul, asked whether there was any proof a choice between classical music and BTS had an impact on spreading the virus.

He also told Reuters many people used their own earphones, asking: “How do you control their playlists?” 

But officials say the measures help prevent gyms from closing completely.

South Korea recently had a spike in COVID-19 cases with 1,193 new cases reported on Monday, per Worldometer. Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Friday that the nation had gotten to “maximum crisis level.” The last time that the country had a similar number of cases was in December when the numbers were recorded at 1,047 cases.

According to The Korea Herald, the public is criticizing the move, saying that the rules are “nonsensical” and “ridiculous.”

“Starting Monday, Korea started enforcing the most restrictive social distancing measures in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province for the next two weeks,” the outlet noted, adding that “[p]rivate gatherings of three or more are banned from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. in these areas, and private gatherings of five or more are banned throughout the rest of the day. Violators face fines of up to 100,000 won ($87).” 

“I don’t know what’s more to worry about these droplets when everyone wears masks without exception,” said Jang, a 32-year-old office employee based in Seoul who frequents the gym nearly every day.  

“They require us to wear face masks while working out, check temperature before entry and provide our phone numbers, and I have closely followed these rules every day, and now they want us to stop running and listen to ballads?” 

“Hardcore cardio has marked the start and end of my daily exercise routines, and now they want me to run slower, but they ask us to leave in two hours,” Jang added. “What do they want from us? Does the government want me to get fat and give up our lifestyle for the sake of these dumb rules?”

Health officials appear to be standing by their decision, however, as Son Young-rae, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said in a radio interview Monday. 

“When you run faster, you spit out more respiratory droplets, so that’s why we are trying to restrict heavy cardio exercises,” Son Young-rae said, adding, “We also agreed on this (120 bpm) standard (with related groups) to transition strenuous aerobic exercises at fitness clubs to less-intense ones.”

Additional elements of the rules also seem to include that three individuals cannot be in the same taxi after 6p.m. when the private gathering limitation goes into effect. Officials have said, however, that it depends on each circumstance. “If the three were going to the same private gathering together, it could be a violation, but if each were heading to different destinations, it could be allowed, they explained,” per the Herald. 

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