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No Fast Music Or Fast Running: COVID Rules In Seoul Force Gym-Goers To Slow Down

Some in South Korea may be stuck listening to slow ballads during their next high-energy workout. In an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus, health officials have banned fast music and even fast running at some fitness clubs.

Gyms in the capital Seoul and other nearby areas are no longer allowed to play music faster than 120 beats per minute (the speed of "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen) during group fitness classes.

Treadmill speeds may not surpass 6 kilometers per hour (or 3 miles per hour).

The concern is that intense exercising, especially in a group setting, could increase the likelihood of stray respiratory droplets and that all the sweat-and-spit slinging could lead to more COVID-19 cases.

Some gym-goers are expressing frustration.

"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, an office worker who frequents the gym, told The Korea Herald. "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?"

Still, it's not hard to understand why health officials are concerned: the greater Seoul area has seen a marked increase in COVID-19 cases, hitting a record daily high this past weekend, according to the Yonhap News Agency. Stringent social distancing protocols have been implemented and will be in place for the next two weeks, with gatherings of more than two barred after 6 p.m., in a bid to get the situation under control.

Son Young-rae, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Welfare, defended the new measures on Monday, according to the Herald. While acknowledging the effectiveness of masks, the Delta variant is more easily transmittable, he pointed out.

"When you run faster, you spit out more respiratory droplets, so that's why we are trying to restrict heavy cardio exercises," Son said.

That's one excuse to skip the gym, at least.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.