If you visit the gym regularly, you are most likely concerned with living a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise not only decreases your chances of falling ill, but it also helps to avoid dangerous health conditions, such as coronary heart disease. Ironically, however, going to the gym can expose you to a myriad of different bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, the large number of people and the warm, moist places inevitably found in gyms and health clubs, makes them an ideal breeding place for bacteria and fungi.
However, don’t fret, there’s no need to rush out and invest in a home gym. You can protect yourself from harmful germs by taking a few simple precautions.
– Thoroughly wipe down machines and free weights before and after use. Don’t assume that the previous user wiped down the machine when they were done with it. Unfortunately, many gym-goers do not abide by this important sanitary rule. Your gym should have spray bottles of cleaner and paper towels available for this purpose. Not only will you be disposing of harmful bacteria, but you also don’t want to be exposed to someone else’s sticky, smelly sweat.
And of course, have the courtesy to thoroughly clean every machine you use before moving on to the next one. Focus your efforts especially on areas of the machine that have direct contact with the skin during normal use.
– If you notice that your gym is out of cleaning solution or paper towels, notify an employee immediately. There is no excuse for a gym to not always have cleaning supplies in stock. However, just to be safe, it’s not a bad idea to carry your own travel pack of sanitary wipes.
– Don’t be afraid to report other gym members who aren’t abiding by sanitary guidelines
– Wash your hands thoroughly before you begin your workout and once again before you head home. This way, not only will you avoid bringing home any nasty germs, but you also will avoid exposing other gym members to your own bacteria or viruses.
– Studies have shown that used water bottles can breed dangerous bacteria. If you bring your own water bottle to the gym, make sure that you scrub it thoroughly with dish soap and hot water after every use, just as you would any other dish in your house. Make sure it is completely dry before replacing the cap.
– Avoid public hot tubs, pools and shower stalls when you can. Because these places are both moist and warm, they are often infested with harmful bacteria and fungi. If you must shower at the gym, wear flip-flops at all times. Shower stalls and locker room floors can be hiding painful fungal diseases such as athlete’s foot and Onychomycosis, which can cause your fingernails and toenails to become yellow and brittle. Also, even the cleanest-looking locker room floor can be home to the virus that causes plantar warts. Washing and drying your feet thoroughly and changing out of your gym shoes and socks immediately after exercising can also help to prevent fungal infections.
– If you use an exercise bike, cover the seat with a clean towel before sitting down. The same goes for any equipment that requires you to sit down or on locker-room benches.
– Finally, if you are feeling ill, stay away from the gym altogether. Health nuts and weight-watchers may find it hard to skip their daily trip to the gym, but even if your symptoms aren’t extreme, you could risk passing your illness on to others. If you think your body is up for it, play it safe and work out at home or take a walk/run outdoors.
While you should be conscious of germs that tend to thrive at gyms and health clubs, don’t use the threat of catching something as an excuse to stay home and sit on the couch. Once you are aware of the areas and situations in which bacteria, fungi and viruses are typically found, you can take the proper precautions to avoid exposure.