How to protect yourself from germs at the gym
How to Protect Yourself from Gym Germs
Gyms can be dirty places. With all those people using them and all that sweat pouring over the equipment, gyms are the ideal breeding ground for bacteria and germs. You can catch a cold, flu, stomach illness, and even hepatitis from germs at the gym. There are also a number of infectious skin diseases you can get, such as jock itch, athlete’s foot, ringworm, herpes simplex, staph, and MRSA. This is why it is so important to practice good gym hygiene.Taking a few precautions when you are at the gym may help protect you from getting sick.
Keeping Up Your Hygiene
Avoid peak hours, if possible.More people means more chances of catching germs. Try to avoid early mornings and evenings after work, since that's when the gym will typically be packed. Aim for late mornings (between 10am-noon), afternoons (between 4-6pm), or weekend mornings to find the gym less busy.
Don’t touch your eyes or mouth during a workout.This is a good habit to have in all public places. The eyes and mouth are common points of entry for germs into your system. Try to keep your hands away from your face, unless you are wiping sweat with a clean towel.
Cover any cuts or broken skin with a bandage before you come to the gym.Your skin is part of the immune system and acts as a barrier for bacteria. Broken skin means a gap in your protection, so be sure to cover it up. An antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin can also be applied under a bandage for additional protection, and to heal a cut faster.
Wash your hands before, during, and after a workout.Use soap and water to do this. Be sure to lather up for at least 15 seconds. When you wash your hands after touching different surfaces, the likelihood of introducing an infection into your system is lessened.
- Hand sanitizer will work as well.
Disinfect equipment before and after use.Your gym should have a spray bottle filled with disinfectant and paper towel. Spray the surfaces which come into contact with the body such as handles and seats, then dry with paper towels. Always wear a shirt and shoes when utilizing public gym equipment.
- After your workout, spray the equipment again, as a courtesy to others.
Use a towel.Put a towel down when your sit on a machine. Also, wear a towel in the locker room and never sit on benches naked. Switch up towels regularly. Use separate towels for wiping down machines for the face and body.
Wear goggles and earplugs in the pool.Besides making you a more efficient swimmer, this will prevent water from potentially introducing harmful bacteria into your body which can cause recreational water illnesses (RWI). While most RWI-causing germs are killed by chlorine within an hour, an improperly managed pool can harbor and breed this bacteria which can lead to diarrhea, ear, or eye infections.
Wear flip flops in the shower and locker room.Walking barefoot is an easy way to contract a fungal infection, such as athlete’s foot. Make sure the flip flops are comfortable and have a good grip, you don't want to slip on the wet floor.
Disinfect your gym bag regularly.Bags pick up dirt from being set on dirty surfaces like locker room floors which can then be transferred to the items inside the bag. Washing your bag with soap and hot water is a good start. Follow up with disinfectant spray, or mist the bag with vinegar to kill bacteria.
Wash your exercise clothes.A washing machine cycle with hot water and detergent will make your outfit clean and fresh for the next time you hit the gym. Make sure you are not reusing sweaty clothes for your next workout.
Bring your own exercise equipment.Items such as exercise mats, weightlifting belts, and resistance bands should be solely yours since they closely touch your body and absorb sweat. Sharing these items will promote the growth of fungus and bacteria.
- If buying these items in not an option, consider laying down a towel when using a gym's exercise mat, and using disinfectant wet wipes such as Lysol brand to clean belts and resistance bands.
Don’t rely on the gym’s water cooler.Bring a filled bottle from home. You should be able to open it without your hands touching the spout. Be sure to wash reusable bottles regularly with hot, soapy water.
Recognizing Where Germs Thrive
Research a gym before joining.Before becoming a member, be sure that a gym adheres to high standards of cleanliness and is managed properly.
- Ask for a tour of the gym to inspect its cleanliness.
- Look for a proactive housekeeping staff.
- Fitness areas need to be well ventilated to prevent the buildup of air-borne bacteria.
- Check to see if disinfectant spray and paper towels are readily available.
- Consult the pool’s pH and chlorine log. Well managed pools check chemicals throughout the day. Look for frequent testing and stable chemical levels.
Familiarize yourself with gym hot zones.You go to the gym to get healthy, but you may do more harm than good if you catch norovirus, fungi, or bacterial infection, all of which thrive on dirty gym equipment. These can lead to illnesses like flu, foot and skin infections, and even staph infection.
- Free weights, weight machines, and exercise balls are rife with bugs from being handled constantly.
- Cardio machines are more likely than free weights to get wiped down but can still harbor bacteria.
- Exercise mats pick up fungus that causes athlete’s foot, and even organisms that cause hepatitis.
Be aware of germ risk in common spaces.Places where people congregate, and commonly touched surfaces tend to have the most germs. Hopefully, these places are regularly cleaned by gym staff, but play it safe by taking all necessary precautions to avoid picking up airborne or surface bacteria.
- Locker rooms and showers are damp environments that cause germs to multiply rapidly.
- Improperly managed pools can become contaminated by pathogens spread through fecal matter which can cause diarrhea, and eye and ear infections.
- Consider bringing your own store bought disinfectant spray rather than using the watered down stuff from the gym.
- When possible, shower at home rather than the gym.
- Look for a special antimicrobial towel at a fitness store.
Video: Where Germs In Gyms Are And How To Avoid Getting Sick From Them | TODAY
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