Slow it down if you want to feel the burn — that’s what South Korean officials are telling gym users as the country experiences a fourth Covid-19 wave.

New guidelines starting Monday include a requirement that gyms not play music with more than 120 beats per minute (bpm) during group exercise classes to prevent fast breathing and splashing sweat on other people.

Coming in at 132 bpm, “Gangnam Style” by South Korea’s Psy is ruled out. But gym-goers can still work out to “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown” or “Dynamite,” by BTS.

A gym member trains in a fitness club in Seoul, South Korea on Monday as new restrictions on workout music take hold.Heo Ran / Reuters

“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, health ministry spokesperson, said in a radio interview Monday, according to South Korea’s English-language daily The Korean Herald.

The near-lockdown restrictions were in place in the capital, Seoul, and neighboring regions.

The restrictions also limit treadmill speeds to a maximum of 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) per hour and ban the use of gym showers.

Some opposition lawmakers have raised questions about the effectiveness of the new rules.

“So you don’t get Covid-19 if you walk slower than 6 km per hour?” said Kim Yong-tae, a member of the main opposition People Power Party, according to Reuters. “And who on earth checks the bpm of the songs when you work out? I don’t understand what Covid-19 has to do with my choice of music.”

Some gym owners are also doubtful.

“Playing cheerful tracks like BTS songs is to cheer up our members and the overall mood, but my biggest question is whether playing classical music or BTS songs has proven to have any impact on spreading the coronavirus,” Seoul gym owner, Kang Hyun-ku, told the agency. “Nothing has been clearly proven yet.”

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South Korea’s daily new cases stayed above 1,000-range for seven days in a row on Monday, another record, with 1,150 cases, health officials said.

The country was praised early in the pandemic for weathering the crisis with relatively few cases compared to other developed nations, but the recent spike has raised the alarm at the highest level of government.

“We are now faced with the worst crisis since Covid-19 pandemic started here,” President Moon Jae-in said in an emergency response meeting Monday as he ordered the toughest pandemic restrictions to date.

Two weeks ago, Moon’s administration promised to ease restrictions, but the surge in cases has changed those plans.

“I am so sorry to ask the people to bear with the situation a bit longer,” Moon said.


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