How to Steer Clear of Germs at the Gym
Ahh, the gym. The place that gives you solace from your hectic life and allows you focus on your health. Where you feel good about burning calories, building muscle, and improving your well-being. Yet, it’s the same place that is the ideal breeding ground for harsh bacteria and germs that are just waiting to infect that perfectly healthy body of yours. From athlete’s foot to serious staph infections, learn how to protect your health when working on it preserving it.
Why The Gym is Perfect for Germs
Your favorite fitness center is just like any other public place (think airports, restaurants, mall). It’s jam packed with people that may not be aware that the sweat they sharing onto the equipment is really just their way of spreading germs into the world. The next time you are at the gym, make sure to take a look around you. The heaving and hoeing of dumbbells and treadmills are just one minor location where festering germs are lurking.
Bacteria and germs thrive in damp and warm areas, particularly in crevices and folds that are porous. Depending on the strain of the bacteria, colonies can live for as long as a few hours to several months. Once bacteria has found the quintessential place for living, they spend time reproducing and waiting until a potential host comes by to sweep it up. And as simple as that, you’ve got bacteria spreading across the weight room.
ABC News conducted a study of germs at a gym by swabbing equipment and testing it at a New York City hospital. The results were rather disgusting. Researchers found harmful bacteria such as sarcinia, candida specie, staphylococcus epi, diptheroids, staph aureus, klebsiella, enterobacter, and E.coli. That’s right, enough bacteria that makes you cringe and raises red flags about hygiene.
The most common type of infection acquired at the gym are skin infections. Whether fungal, bacterial, or viral, skin infections easily spread through hands, towels, equipment, and believe it or not, water fountains. One of the most prevalent skin infections found in athletes that workout at the gym is MRSA. Something as little as a bump on your arm can be easily overlooked as an irritation to your skin.
How To Protect Yourself from Germs
Keep your hands away from your face. Germs love orifices such as your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Use a towel, instead of your hands, to wipe sweat off your face.
Refrain from (directly) sharing the love of music. You’re ready to hit the treadmill but you’ve forgotten your ear buds. Don’t borrow your buddy’s buds, sharing ear buds means possibly sharing ear infections. Ouch.
Use gym wipes to wipe down equipment and mats before and after usage. You never know if the person who used the elliptical before you was just getting over a cold. It’s best to sanitize the surface you’ll be working on.
Bandage cuts, abrasions, or broken skin. Bacteria love open wounds. Don’t give them a chance. Protect your body by covering up your wounds. It’ll not only protect you, but it prevents the spread of bacteria to others.
Use more than one towel. We know you want to be green and conserve energy. But the towel you use to dry off shouldn’t be the same towel you use to lay on the bench. If possible, bring your own towels from home.
Avoid sharing grooming products. It happens to the best of us. We rush out of the house and forget one our needed items. But razors, deodorant, and soap are meant to be used by one person only. If you find yourself in a bind, run out to the local pharmacy for a quick fix.
Bring your own water. Believe it or not, water fountains are one of the most frequented places in the gym with the most germs. Even if you have your own bottle, filling it up at the fountain still puts you at risk for being the host to a colony of bacteria. Try to carry enough water to keep you hydrated throughout your workout.
Don’t walk barefoot in the locker room. Exposing yourself to athlete’s foot and ringworm aren’t worth the pleasures of walking around with nothing on your feet. Wear sandals or flip flops when walking to and from the shower or the steam room.
Wear a towel to the sauna or steam room. Can you imagine all of the germs just creeping around in the moistest place in the gym? Protect your body by wearing a towel or putting a towel down where you plan on resting.
Rinse off those germs immediately after working out. Showering after a workout prevents transmission of germs to other places (office, car, home). If you can’t shower at the gym, make sure you wash those hands with anti-bacterial soap. And yes, you must shower after swimming laps too.
Separate dirty clothes. Don’t put your soiled workout gear into your bag. The germs will just find a new place to park themselves. Try carrying another bag or put your dirty clothes in a plastic one.
The Bottom Line: Use common sense when at the gym. Wipe things down, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face.