The Gym: The Place To Get Fit, Not Pick Up Illnesses
When you come to the gym, your main goal is to become fit through cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility exercises. But you’re also picking up viruses, fungi and bacteria from the exercise equipment, shower floors, and fellow gym rats! You can become sick with a wide range of diseases aside from the risks of physical injuries.
According to healthcare experts, the likeliest threats are upper respiratory tract infections. Of course, you can get the common cold and flu in other public places but the risk of getting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is higher in the gym. Keep in mind that MRSA can be scary because of its resistance against certain antibiotics, thus, its fatal consequences for many people.
Are you scared yet? You shouldn’t be despite the health risks of being a regular visitor to commercial gyms, such as Bay Club and Equinox. You have to remember that the health rewards of regular exercise far outweigh the risks.
The trick: You should adopt preventive measures to significantly reduce your risks of contracting diseases while in the gym. Here are the best measures.
Wash Your Hands Often
Bodily fluids particularly sweat can be carriers of a wide range of germs, too. You should wash your hands as often as possible especially since you’re sharing exercise equipment with other gym-goers. You will be surprised at the germs that lurk on the handlebars, benches, and control panels of barbells, Smith machines, and treadmills!
After exercising, be sure to wash your hands with warm soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Wash them with vigorous motions in all areas – your palms, wrists, and forearms as well as between your fingers. Wash your hands before eating anything, even a wrapped protein bar, and before touching your face.
Always Use Your Own Supplies
You should bring your own supplies and equipment, whenever possible. You can, for example, bring your own yoga mat, boxing wraps, and boxing gloves since these come in direct and prolonged contact with your skin. You may also wear latex gloves in case the gym-issued boxing gloves cannot accommodate boxing wraps.
Of course, you should never use other people’s towels, soaps and razors, among other personal supplies. You may think that the personal supplies issued by the gym are clean but you shouldn’t take the chance. You don’t know how it was cleaned, in the first place, if it was cleaned at all.
Check Your Skin Regularly
Your skin will have a healthy glow when you’re engaged in regular exercise. You shouldn’t bask too much in it that you forget about checking your skin for signs of cuts, wounds and infections. Your vigilance in this matter can mean the difference between being fit and sick with one or two illnesses.
This is because most skin infections are contracted via breaks in the skin. You can, for example, pick up bacteria through an open wound in your foot while barefooted in the shower. You must then:
- Check your skin for cuts, scrapes and wounds before going to the gym.
- Cover them with a secure bandage, whether these are still in their active stage (i.e., bleeding) or in the healing process.
- Avoid swimming pools, Jacuzzis, and whirlpools when you have open skin.
- Consult with your doctor when your wounds aren’t healing within 2 to 3 days, or when you have abnormal pain or fever.
You should avoid going to the gym until your doctor gives a definitive diagnosis, in case of the last instance. You may have an infection that can be contracted by others. You must remember that respect goes both ways in the gym – just as you want to avoid getting infected, you must avoid infecting others, too.
You should also check out your fellow gym-goers in terms of possible signs of infection, such as rashes and blisters. You must avoid body contact since the greater the contact, the higher the risks for infection.
Better yet, you should wipe down the exercise equipment and machines before and after using them. Your plain towel will not do the job although it’s certainly better than just using the equipment. You should ideally use an antibacterial spray or wipe, which you brought along or provided by the gym.
Take Your Showers
You will not only feel fresher after a shower but your risks for getting infections also decrease with it. A few tips to keep in mind:
- Shower first before getting into the hot tub, whirlpool or swimming pool. You’re less likely to introduce bacteria into the water, a common courtesy all gym goers must observe.
- Shower after getting out of the body of water. You’re less likely to pick up so-called hot tub rash, a skin infection caused by a type of bacteria.
- Shower after your workout. You can reduce your risks of getting fungal infections, such as jock itch and athlete’s foot, when you’re not hanging out too long in your sweaty clothes and shoes.
Always wear your shoes in wet areas, too. Going barefoot is a big no-no, health-wise.
And don’t forget to choose your gym wisely. You should check out the cleanliness of the exercise areas, lockers, and shower rooms, as well as the hygiene measures in place.