It seems strange that gyms would be considered a place where you could potentially get really sick, but the evidence definitely points that way. Whether it’s common colds or staph infections, gyms by their nature can be a supermarket of germs for the unsuspecting exerciser. That being said, here are a few tips to keep yourself safe and clean at the gym so that you don’t pick up what others left on the bench, and so that you don’t leave anything there yourself!
Join a Gym that’s Clean
Before you ever hit the weights or the elliptical, make sure that the gym that you are part of has cleanliness as a strong value. If you have not yet joined a gym, make sure to sign up for a trial period before joining so that you can survey the landscape and make sure the staff is doing its job. First off, look to see if the fitness staff is wiping down machines if a patron forgets to. Many places just let this important practice slip. If your fellow gym rats aren’t going to be clean, its essential to know that the staff will be clean for them! Make sure the staff are carrying around bottles of cleaner if they are working the floor and ask about the necessary certifications and standards for cleanliness your gym’s employees are required to have.
Next, be sure to check the bathrooms! This isn’t the sort of thing that most people think about, but the status of the bathrooms can determine the cleanliness of the whole building. If the place is a pig sty and smells like something worse, you can be that the place is crawling with germs that patrons (who, let’s be honest, don’t all wash their hands) are taking with them to the dumbbells and mats.
Finally, find out what your gym’s policy on open wounds is. Staph infections run rampant when wounds are exposed, so a responsible gym will have standards regarding infection prevention.
Wipe Down All the Machines You Touch
Expecting your gym staff to be hygienic goes hand in hand with being hygienic yourself. Carry a sweat rag (or two!) and a bottle of hand sanitizer with you wherever you go in the gym. Your sweat rag is to be used to wipe your sweat from the machines you use and to wipe sweat off of yourself without touching your face with your hands. This is why it’s good to have two rags: one for your machines and one for you. I have noticed that acne starts to flare up when this is neglected. The gym can only be as clean as the most irresponsible member!
Most gyms offer showers in the locker rooms. Take advantage of these! It may be a hassle, especially if you only live 2 minutes away, but by using the gym’s shower you make sure that what you pick up at the gym stays there. By the way, make sure to bring some cheap flip flops for the shower!
Wash Your Clothes
Look, I basically living in the locker room in high school and I know that there are a ton of you out there who are convinced that you can get away with wearing the same clothes day in and day out when you exercise since you’re going to get them sweat anyways. Wrong. Unless you want to extend an open-armed friend invitation to a staph infection, don’t do that. Staph loves moist, electrolyte-loaded cloth that sits in musty gym bags. It’s like staph’s Beverly Hills. That’s where it wants to be. Make sure to wash your clothes and wear fresh shorts/shirts every time you exercise.
If you do get sick, abstain from going to the gym and see a doctor or medical testing facility to ensure that you haven’t caught anything serious when working out. This should be unlikely though if you follow the above instructions. So, follow a few basic instructions and benefit from a healthy gym experience!
Author Bio: Kevin Wayne writes for Health Testing Centers, which has been offering direct access to health tests for 30 years.