Dealing with The Gym’s Dirtiest Spots
Did you know that even the cleanest gyms have viruses, fungi and bacteria that can make gym-goers sick? Gyms have plenty of them, too, such as the norovirus and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)! The norovirus can cause vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea, as well as survive for up to a month on surfaces, while MRSA can result in dangerous skin infections.
So, the next time you’re going to the World Gym – or any gym, for that matter – here are a few things to remember about its dirtiest spots. You don’t have to avoid the gym since you can significantly reduce your risks of getting infections. You just have to be mindful of your gym habits and surroundings.
Your Gym Bag
Let’s face it – your gym bag isn’t exactly a germ-free place especially after sweaty clothes, dirty socks and shoes, and wet towels are stuffed in there. These things are hotbeds of germs, too, since pathogens thrive in wet, humid and dirty environments. You should regularly wash your gym bag, as well as remove the abovementioned offending as soon as you get home.
But that’s not all. Whenever a gym bag is placed on the floor, bench, or locker in a gym, it will likely pick up disease-causing microbes. The most common pathogens hitching a ride on your gym bag are salmonella, staph, pseudomonas, and E. coli, which cause a wide range of diseases in the skin, stomach and other body parts.
A few tips to combat the growth of germs on gym bags:
- Choose plastic or vinyl bags since germs are less likely to stick to these materials. These materials are also easier to clean with antiseptic sprays.
- Stash dirty clothes, socks and shoes in separate plastic bags. These can also be kept in separate compartments in the bag, of plastic bags are unavailable.
- Swab or spray the inside and outside areas of your gym bag with disinfectant wipes or sprays, respectively.
In case you prefer a cloth or canvas gym bag, be sure to wash it once a week. You have to use a peroxide-based detergent, bleach, and water for washing it, as well as put it into the dryer for 45 minutes. This will not just make your gym bag but also kill most of its pathogens.
When it comes to personal supplies, the cardinal rule is: Never ever share personal supplies with others. Otherwise, it will be so easy to get infected with a wide range of diseases including but not limited to skin and respiratory infections.
These personal supplies include towels, boxing wraps, razors, combs, and bath and body products (e.g., soaps, shampoos and lotion). Even when clean towels are offered in the gym, you should always bring your own. This is because gym towels can contain MRSA and E. coli bacteria – many gyms use the same hamper for clean and dirty towels.
A few tips in this regard:
- Bring your own towel always.
- Mark one side with an “X” using a permanent marker. Use this side when making contact with the exercise machines and the other side for wiping your sweat.
- Bring another towel, preferably an antimicrobial type, for your shower.
Always wash your towel afterwards to kill the germs that it may have picked up at the gym.
You should also be aware of the health risks that come from your water bottle. When taking sips from it during your workout, the germs from the rim quickly move to its bottom – and their reproduction is as quick as can be. By the time you use your unwashed water bottle after a few workouts, you’re basically drinking water from a public swimming pool.
The best thing to do: Use a wide-mouthed bottle with a screw cap instead of a built-in straw or a pull-up spout. Wash it on a daily basis before storing in the fridge; germs thrive in warm environments, thus, the suggestion.
Weight Machines and Equipment
In a commercial gym, dozens of people will handle the exercise machines and equipment. This means dozens of people leaving behind and picking up viruses, fungi and bacteria – and the cycle will continue.
For this reason, you should adopt these preventive measures to reduce your risks of picking up infections from things that are supposed to help you become fit:
- Wipe the surfaces of whatever machine or equipment you plan on using with a disinfectant. You can also rub antibacterial gel on your hands before and after every workout.
- Avoid using machines and equipment with dubious stains. You’re better off safe than sorry, especially when many pathogens can be transmitted via skin contact.
These are just a few of the safety measures you should remember while at the gym. You have to develop these habits until these become second nature in your workouts. You can then focus on the next important thing – how to be as injury-free as possible during your exercises.