When you first get to the gym, what do you do? Maybe change your clothes, put on your sneakers, grab your ipod, gulp down some water, and then look for an available cardio machine or spot to lift weights. But this routine is missing one key step: WASHING YOUR HANDS! Bet you didn’t think I was going to say that. But it’s true, washing your hands prior to and also after exercising in a communal place – whether a gym, yoga studio, pool, sports arena, etc., is crucial for preventing the spread of germs. Bacteria and fungi thrive in environments where there is plenty of heat and moisture. Gyms, and especially locker rooms, are breading grounds for illnesses ranging from the common cold and viruses to bacterial infections.
But this is NOT a reason to avoid the gym. Going to the gym is still one of the best things you can do for yourself to improve both physical and mental health! Instead, this is a reason to AVOID germs at the gym. Follow these 10 tips to stay fit, healthy, and safe at the gym:
- Cover cuts with band-aids: any cuts, large and small, make sure to cover up to prevent exposure to outside germs.
- Spray down machines: use disinfecting spray (available at most health clubs) on both cardio and strength equipment before using, even if they don’t look sweaty!
- Shower safety: bring your own towel, wear flip-flops, and wash with soap thoroughly everywhere (don’t forget between your toes!)
- Bring a separate bag for dirty gym clothes: bacteria and fungus love sweat! This includes the sweat on your clothes, so toss your gym attire into a designated bag after working out to prevent spreading the germs onto other items.
- Wash your gym shoes & water bottle: did you know the average pair of running shoes has 76 times more fungi than a toilet bowl? Do you really want to be putting your feet into that? And most people simply refill water bottles after each workout session. Make sure to sterilize water bottles with boiling water, or put in the dishwasher if dishwasher safe.
- BYO: bring your own face towel and mat!
- Change your shorts immediately after working out: you are more likely to get a yeast or bacterial infection from leaving your post-workout shorts on than from anything else at the gym. If you don’t have time to shower right after working out, at least bring a change of dry, clean underwear and shorts to slip on.
- Sauna Safety: sit on a towel or wear shorts to prevent direct contact with the seating, which may contain germs or bacteria.
- Hair and sweat on the face while exercising: push back hair from your face or wipe away sweat with the back of your palm, which is less likely to have touched a contaminated surface.
- And lastly, WASH YOUR HANDS (with soap!): both before and after exercising!
Keep these tips in mind to get fit and healthy at the gym while staying germ-free!
Research assistance provided by Marsi Shapiro