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Opening training centers during the pandemic: A clinical trial

Public health mitigation measures such as social distancing, closing training centers and wearing face masks have been used during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the benefits and harms of these measures are poorly understood.  

Logo of the TRAiN study

The Clinical Effectiveness Research group reports results from a randomized trial on Covid-19 virus transmission risk at gyms during the pandemic. 

Soon after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many clinical trials for drugs and vaccines were initiated. For public health mitigation measures such as 3- or 6-foot distancing rules, school closures, or quarantine duration, clinical trials have been lacking.

The Clinical effectiveness research group performed a randomized trial (The TRAiN study) lead by Lise M. Helsingen at the University of Oslo (UiO).

The main results of the trial were recently published in BMC Public Health «Covid-19 transmission in fitness centers in Norway - a randomized trial».

During the pandemic, the public health interventions were implemented in a large scale for the general population without empirical evidence on benefit-harm effects. The TRAiN study is one of few clinical trials investigating effects of public mitigation measures. 

No increased infection risk

The TRAiN study was performed in Oslo in May and June 2020. 3764 members of 5 different training centers participated in the trial. Half of the participants were randomized to be able to train at their center, and half of the participants were randomized to no-access. No individuals had Covid-19-relevant comorbidities. All training centers in Norway were closed at the time. 

The trial did not find an increased risk of Covid-19 transmission in the people randomized to training as compared to those not randomized to training.

– With good hygiene and physical distancing measures as applied in the trial, there was no increased infection risk of SARS-CoV-2 in fitness centers in Oslo, says lead author Helsingen.

WHO calls for more clinical trials

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently called for more clinical trials to strengthen the evidence base for decisions on public health and social measures in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization: «Strengthening the evidence base for decisions on public health and social measures».

– Some mitigation measures against COVID-19, such as improved hand hygiene, have little harm or cost. Others, including closures of schools and workplaces, curfews, or travel restrictions, have serious harms and burdens. Such measures need structured evidence evaluation for all 3 components of evidence-based risk assessment to be recognized, says Michael Bretthauer, lead author of a recently published commentary in The Annals of Internal Medicine: «Evidence and Precaution for Legal Health Interventions: Learning From the COVID-19 Pandemic».

International interest

The TRAiN study has been sited broadly in the media since the preliminary results were announced. You can read about the TRAiN study in The New York Times,  Aftenposten and NRK.

Authors of the paper «Covid-19 transmission in fitness centers in Norway - a randomized trial»:

Interesting! I want to learn more about the TRAiN study (Norwegian).

Tags: clinical trials, pandemic, COVID-19, evidence By Anita Aalby
Published Nov. 26, 2021 10:18 AM - Last modified Nov. 26, 2021 3:15 PM