How To Avoid Infection In The Gym
Even the cleanest gym can be a breeding ground for germs - including germs that are resistant to anti-biotics. Viruses and bacteria may survive for hours on metal and other gym surfaces. Some fungi can survive for years.
This can be particularly threatening to people with a compromised immune system.
To protect yourself:
- From the moment you start exercise until you wash your hands thoroughly with an anti-bacterial soap (or regular soap if an anti-bacterial one isn't available), do not touch your hands to your nose, mouth, ears or eyes.
- Wipe down equpment with the alcohol spray or wipes that most gyms provide or with your own anti-bacterial wipes or alcohol. If you want to be extra safe, wear exercise gloves. If you can't wipe down areas you touch, clean your own hands or other exposed skin that has come in contact with equipment immediately after use.
- Do not share towels. Bring your own if necessary.
- Put a clean towel over your workout mat or consider bringing your own mat.
- Avoid bar soap from the gym (soap in a dispenser is fine). Bacteria actually breeds in the hot, wet surface of the soap. If the gym doesn't have soap in a dispenser, take your own bottle of anti-bacterial soap to the gym.
- If you have a cut, keep it covered so the wound doesn't come in contact with gym equipment.
- If you use the steam room, keep in mind that steam rooms breed bacteria. Avoid infection by keeping your hands away from your face.
- Your gym clothes:
- Change out of your gym clothes before leaving the gym so you don't spread organisms to your home and/or work area.
- Wash your gym clothes and the bag you carry them in after every work out. If you used a reusable water bottle, wash it too.
- Just before you leave the gym:
- Wash every part of your body. (Wear shower shoes in the locker room and shower.)
- Dry yourself thoroughly, including your armpits, feet groin and between your toes. Some professionals suggest blow-drying your feet on low heat to make sure they are dry.
- If you can't shower, at least wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. A rule of thumb for killing germs is to wash as long as it takes you to hum the song: "Happy Birthday."
- Note that antimicrobial liquid soaps kill more germs than antibacterial soaps.
NOTE: Avoid dehydration by drinking water before, during and after workouts, especially if you are taking a heavy daily dose of prescription drugs.