At least thirty minutes of exercise a day keeps the doctor away, but that depends on where exactly you’re working out. The gym is the go-to place for people to work on their fitness, but it can also be a breeding ground for illness-causing germs and bacteria. Almost 63% of gym equipment has been found to be teeming with rhinoviruses, and researchers have found that the basic disinfection that gym employees do isn’t enough to kill off all these germs. Since gym equipment passes through the hands of hundreds of people in quick succession in a single day, people who work out at the gym are at high risk for contracting various illnesses and diseases.
To make matters worse, besides the flu and the common cold, working out at the gym also makes people more susceptible to skin infections due to the presence of Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on surfaces like showers, yoga mats, and shoulder press benches that have come in contact with people who have the bacteria on them. Furthermore, if one isn’t careful, they can easily over-exercise and suppress their immune system’s resilience instead, making them more vulnerable to illness.
Knowing all this might scare people away from the gym entirely, but it’s important to know that thousands of people visit public fitness centers every day and leave without coming down with anything. It’s all about taking extra precautions beforehand to stay safe and healthy. Here are the top ways to avoid getting sick from the gym.
Wipe down and sanitize gym equipment
Before and after using any equipment or touching any surface in the gym, it’s essential to wipe down everything with disinfectant at least twice. Antibacterial wipes, disinfecting spray, and even homemade antibacterial solution made out of white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and essential oils are all great options. The key is to be thorough and consistent when sanitizing machines and surfaces, and don’t be stingy when it comes to how much disinfectant is used.
Bring your own water bottle
Water fountains provide free water for gym-goers, but also they’re also a free-for-all for bacteria and viruses to spread. Instead of drinking directly from the water fountain or refilling a bottle with water from there, it’s better to bring an already filled-up water bottle or two. The bottle should be made out of stainless steel since this kind of material is anti-bacterial and is less likely to have germ-harboring cracks and crevices on its surface.
Carry multiple towels
Refrain from using the free towels offered at the gym, and instead bring multiple personal towels — one for wiping down surfaces and machines, one for cleaning with disinfectant solution, and one for sweat. It might look silly to carry so many towels, but it’s better than getting sick.
Take your own equipment with you
Bring as much personal equipment as possible. This includes boxing gloves, yoga mats, resistance bands, and boxing wraps — as well as personal hygiene tools such as razors, combs, towels, deodorant, and antibacterial soap. Never share belongings things with other gym-goers.
Cover up wounds and cuts
Keep skin infections at bay by thoroughly disinfecting and covering up any wounds and cuts with band-aids or a gauze pad fastened with paper tape. This will keep harmful bacteria from entering the body.
Exaggerate physical distancing
Keep an eye out for anyone who seems to be exhibiting any signs of illness, and stay away from them. Rather than just staying 6-feet away from other people, it’s safer to exaggerate the distance between other people instead. At least 10-feet away from other gym-goers is recommended, if possible.
Stay home if sick
Extend some courtesy and consideration to other gym-goers by not hitting up the gym when you’re sick. All the previous tips are just precautions in case someone isn’t exhibiting symptoms yet, but is already infected. If you already know you’re sick, stay home and avoid spreading illness to other gym-goers.
Never go barefoot
Avoid going barefoot even in areas where it’s generally accepted to do so, such as the bathroom and the swimming pool. Always bring a pair of flip-flops or slippers before and after visiting these areas. If there’s no choice but to go barefoot, then thoroughly wipe down feet with a disinfectant before and after entering these locations.
Strengthen the immune system
Ensure that your immune system is strong enough to protect you from the germs you’ll encounter at the gym. This means eating healthy, getting an adequate amount of sleep, avoiding over-exercising, staying hydrated, and consume supplements to boost the immune system’s defense mechanisms.
Visit during off-hours
Consider visiting the gym when it isn’t filled with other people, such as in the early morning or late evening. Visiting the gym early in the morning ensures that the facility has already been thoroughly sanitized for the night, and most equipment hasn’t come in contact with other people. This doesn’t mean you should hold off on wiping down and disinfecting surfaces. It just means there’s a lesser chance of contracting something during these hours.
These easy and practical tips will help you avoid getting sick at the gym. Getting fit and healthy at the gym doesn’t have to come at the cost of coming down with the flu.