Gyms are a breeding ground for the germs that cause colds, flu, skin infections and viruses.
It’s flu season, even in Florida. We go to the gym to get healthier but, if you’re not careful, you can get more than you bargained for.
The benefits of working out far outweigh the risks, and there are lots of preventive measures we can take to make sure we are not sharing more than dumbbells. Follow these tips to stay healthy during your workout.
First, if you are feeling ill, stay home. Not only does your body need rest to heal, but there's no need to pass your germs on to the next person. Any cuts, open wounds or sores should be covered with a bandage before you go to the gym.
Most gyms have wipes or disinfectant spray and paper towels to wipe down equipment. Never assume the person who has used the treadmill before you has wiped it down afterward. Before you get on, take a few moments to wipe down all the places where your hands will touch. Once you are finished with your workout, wipe the equipment down. The same rule applies to the free weight area.
If your gym does not have any kind of disinfectant for the equipment, carry hand sanitizer with you. In addition, keep your hands away from your eyes and mouth during your workout. If you use a workout towel, make sure you are placing the same side face down on the equipment.
Exercise mats carry a host of germs that can cause skin infections, athlete's foot or colds and flu. They are spongy, so they hold on to the germs and are more difficult to clean. It’s best to bring your own mat if you are attending a yoga class, but it is still important to clean your mat. Whether the mat you are using belongs to the gym or not, the proper way to clean it is to cover the entire surface with a good amount of disinfectant spray (either bleach or alcohol-based) and let it air dry.
Locker rooms are another area where germs are shared. Shower at home as soon as possible. If you must shower at the gym, wear flip flops to protect your feet from fungus and avoid shaving at the gym. Bring your own towel and wrap yourself in it before you sit on the benches.
Lastly, how clean is your gym bag? Shoes should be placed in a plastic bag after use as well as any dirty gym clothes. Be sure to remove them as soon as you get home and disinfect your gym bag after each use.
These preventive measures will help you avoid getting sick so you won’t have to miss a workout.
Angela Fulgieri is the Wellness Experience Director at the Plant City YMCA. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.