Where you’re most likely to catch Covid from gym to cinema, new study shows


A new study has highlighted the exact risk you have of catching Covid-19 in various locations – including where you’re most likely to catch it

Woman running on treadmill
Heavy exercise indoors can increase your risk of catching Covid

There are certain things we do in our daily lives that increase the risk of catching Covid-19.

Two years into the coronavirus pandemic, normal life is slowly returning in England, with the easing of restrictions and rules.

Despite Covid rates increasing thanks to the Omicron variant, the hospital admission rate has decreased. Even so, it’s important to do all we can to avoid spreading Covid.

It’s well known that certain places and activities can increase our risk, but a new study has offered clear estimates about the risk of Covid infection.

So which activities are safe, and how safe exactly are they? Researchers have published a study in the peer-reviewed Environmental Science & Technology journal calculated the exact risk of catching Covid in various environments.

Where you’re most likely to catch Covid

Singing can increase your risk of catching coronavirus



Displayed in a handy chart, the study has listed the percentage likelihood of becoming infected in different situations.

For example, if you’re sitting in a crowded cinema with a mostly unmasked audience, there’s a 14% chance of being infected, assuming everyone in the room is silent.

However, if there are some people talking, the odds of infection jump to 54%.

If the audience is masked, the risk of infection drops to a mere 5.3% if they stay silent, or 24% if there is talking.

Unsurprisingly, the risk of catching Covid is lowest in outdoor areas, and the risk is lowered if people stay silent and wear a mask.

Here’s the table detailing the various risk factors


Environmental Science & Technology)

For example, if you’re standing with someone outside for a short period of time, and neither of you are talking, there is less than 0.001% likelihood of catching Covid outdoors.

If it’s in a poorly ventilated area, the risk creeps up to 0.16%.

If you’re wearing a face covering but speaking for a short time to someone who is infected, there is a 0.002% chance of you getting Covid.

If the area is poorly ventilated, there is a 0.78% chance, according to the study. The chance of catching Covid increases if the place has a high volume of people.

Brits will be well aware of the three main symptoms of coronavirus – a new, continuous cough, a fever and a loss of taste and/or smell.

These are the officially recognized symptoms according to the NHS.

However, with the new Omicron variant, symptoms have been described as being more similar to a common cold.

It’s important to be aware of the symptoms in order to limit the spread of Covid.

According to the chart, you have a 99% chance of catching Covid if you’re doing heavy exercise in a poorly ventilated, high occupancy indoor area, if you’re not wearing a face covering and have contact for a long time.

The study explains that if you do a combination of things that are in the “dark red” cells of the table, you’re more likely to get Covid.

The things that increase your risk are:

  • Gathering together with lots of people in an enclosed space with poor air quality, such as an under-ventilated gym, nightclub or school classroom
  • Doing something strenuous or rowdy such as exercising, singing or shouting
  • Leaving off your masks
  • Staying there for a long time

To avoid catching Covid, the study recommends keeping in the green or amber spaces of the table.

Wearing a mask can help limit your risk of catching coronavirus



That means:

If you must meet other people, do so outdoors or in a space that’s well-ventilated or meet in a space where the ventilation is good and air quality is known.

  • Keep the number of people to a minimum
  • Spend the minimum possible amount of time together
  • Don’t shout, sing or do heavy exercise
  • Wear high-quality, well-fitting masks from the time you enter the building to the time you leave

The study stresses that “while the chart gives an estimated figure for each situation, the actual risk will depend on the specific parameters, such as exactly how many people are in a room of what size”.

The study was completed by Trish Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford; Jose-Luis Jimenez, Distinguished Professor, Chemistry, University of Colorado Boulder; Shelly Miller, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder, and Zhe Peng, Research Scientist, University of Colorado Boulder.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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