Germs Workout at The Gym Too!

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This article is not about germs actually working out (I wonder if they prefer cardio?)… rather, the germs you may encounter during your workout. As a trainer I spend many hours in the gym and I see a lot of disgusting things… things I should warn you about!

As a self-professed anti-germ freak, I probably wash my hands 50 times a day. I use multiple bottles of hand sanitizer a month, do a little dance when I can sneak through a door behind someone walking into a public place so I don’t have to touch the door handle.

My family also has to deal with my germ phobia. I always make my kids “sanitize” their hands before we eat out… and when we get in the car after going to the store. So based on my fear and habitual prevention of germs I would say I am a “germ avoidance expert.”

Back to the gym. Before I get into the specifics of how to avoid germs there, take a minute and think about what people do at the gym… sweating, breathing, straining, and grunting (I hope that was a grunt). Anyway, all sorts of people do all sorts of potentially germy things at the gym, and in order to defend yourself you need to know the dirtiest places in the gym… and some things that someone who works at a gym (me) does to avoid them.

Here is my list of the 3 dirtiest places at the gym and what you can do to minimize exposure to those pesky germs.

man in chemical suit

1.     Machines: Machines are the main “contact” point everyone touches and/or sweats on in the gym. I know what you are thinking: “If I wipe off the machine before I use it, I won’t be exposed to the little germies.” However, studies show that exercise machines in gyms are thriving with germs and wiping them off doesn’t seem to matter. So what is the gym user to do? It is simple… after using a machine, don’t touch your eyes, face, or mouth unless you wash your hands really, really well first. You will not be able to avoid the germs here, but unless you transfer those germs to your mouth, eyes, nose, etc., you don’t give them a way to infect you.

2.     Exercise mats: Have you ever seen anyone at your gym wipe down the mats? It seems like the machines get wiped down on occasion, but no one ever wipes the mats down… ever! So… how does athlete’s foot or plantar warts sound? Bad, right? These are just some of the wonderful things you can “catch” from dirty exercise mats. So what can you do? It’s easy… don’t use the gym’s exercise or yoga mats. Bring your own, and when you are done for the day, sanitize the heck out of it!

3.     Showers: Do you know how often the showers at your gym are properly sanitized? Not often. And what happens if someone showers before you? Ewww! The best thing here is to always wear flip flops in the shower. Also, bring your own soap and shampoo, and always use a clean towel.

Take Home Tips

Even if you follow the above advice, you can still “take home” gym germs. These additional tips help minimize those.

1.     Don’t wear your workout clothes home: This may be a pain to do, but realize that all the germs you sat on and pressed up against are now saturated in your clothes. And never wear your workout clothes more than once without washing them.

2.     Sanitize your phone: With cool apps like the Body Lab app to help you through your workout, touching your phone with contaminated hands is unavoidable. Make sure you carry some anti-bacterial wipes in your bag so you can disinfect your phone right after your workout.

3.     Wash your hands: As I said earlier, the best way to avoid contamination and the spread of germs is to wash your hands frequently. Don’t just quickly rinse them in water… really wash them. According to the CDC you need to scrub your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. (They recommend singing the “happy birthday” song to yourself 2 times to ensure proper hand washing.)

Let’s face it; germs are not going away, especially at the gym. You can always keep your guard up by sanitizing your hands and not touching your eyes, mouth, nose, or face. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly can also boost your immune system and help you fight those pesky germs. Stay resilient, and stay fit!

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