We get it – simply thinking about the nasty bacteria, viruses and fungi hiding in your gym and fitness studio is enough to send you straight into a disinfecting frenzy. The good news is that there are manageable ways to protect yourself from the potentially harmful germs that are setting up shop right under your nose. The bad news? Well, in order to take such precautions, it’s important to understand what we’re dealing with here.
Gyms are notorious for harboring germs – the kind that really give us the heebie-jeebies – like staphylococcus bacteria, fungi, dermatophytes and herpes simplex viruses. These germs, often contracted and spread through sweat, hair, skin and other bodily fluids, can cause skin ailments such as athlete’s foot, jock itch, impetigo and cold sores, not to mention increase your chance of picking up one of the 200 viruses that cause the common cold. “I've even found MRSA [a bacterium resistant to many antibiotics that causes a painful skin infection] on an exercise ball in a gym," said Philip Tierno Jr., Ph.D., author of "The Secret Life of Germs.”
But all hope is not lost. You do have control over your health and hygiene, especially in the gym. And it’s worth paying attention to because practicing proper hygiene is as important to your overall wellbeing as your diet, fitness and mental health. Especially if you don’t want to spend any time watching from the sidelines.
So what can you do to protect yourself and others from entering hygiene hell?
- The Center for Disease Control recommends showering immediately following exercise to remove germs and prevent sweat-related infection.
- If you don’t have time or access to a shower immediately, make sure to wipe down with an antibacterial body wipe, like ShowerPill, to remove sweat and dirt. These extra-thick, disposable wipes work like a washcloth to remove 99.9 percent of bacteria, while leaving skin clean, fresh and moisturized.
- The Center for Disease Control recommends using a disinfectant wipe/towel to clean equipment before and after use, especially items that touch your hands and face. Take particular care cleaning yoga mats.
- Bring your own water. Wipe down the bottle periodically and keep the cap on between water breaks.
- If you need to take a seat, wipe down the bench or seating area before and after you are finished. And don't lean on or over equipment and counters when resting.
- Avoid touching your face and mouth while exercising in a gym. If you must, wipe perspiration off with a body wipe, like ShowerPill.
- Do not walk barefoot inside the gym, locker room or sauna/steam room. Always wear shower shoes.
- Do not use communal bars of soap. Most aren't antibacterial and almost none are antiviral.
Exercise is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle, and so is practicing proper personal hygiene. With a little mindfulness in the gym, you can kick germs to the curb and get back to crushing your fitness goals.