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How to maintain good hygiene at the gym

Updated on May 8, 2015

Gyms are the best place to get fit… and sick. As the adrenaline rushes through your body and you jog towards burning those extra 50 calories, sanitation becomes the last thing on your mind. But while you’re sweating it out on the yoga mat, your clothes becomes a breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria.

Like most of us, germs love warm and cozy places. Gym facilities, including saunas, locker rooms and swimming pools, are the perfect venues for these bugs to thrive. They are most commonly found lurking on handles, dumbells and bike seats, crawling all over the shower floor and hiding inside boxing gloves.

So have you ever wondered where that ringworm came from? Or why you keep getting an Athlete’s Foot? Lack of good gym hygiene practices can lead to regular fungal infections, not to mention aggressive colds and the seasonal flu.

Getting into the habit of the following good hygiene procedures doesn’t entail much effort, but it will certainly earn you the respect of your fellow gym members.

1. Use towels

Most gyms provide members with clean towels at the start of their workout. If not, always take two towels with you. Use one of the towels as a shield against germ-populated surfaces, particularly seats, handles and yoga mats. Don’t use the same towel to wipe down equipment if paper towels happen to be at your disposal. You will need the towel to wipe off your own sweat instead.

Never share towels with a friend. Take a second towel with you if you plan to have a shower after the workout.

2. Wipe and sanitise

Wipe down equipment with disinfectant gel and wipes before AND after use. You’ll be doing yourself, and the person who uses the machine after you, a huge favor. Skin infections are easily transmitted through direct contact with a contaminated surface. The worst areas are the handles of some of the most commonly used machines - tread mills, bikes and cross-trainers. Ideally you should also rub your hands in an alcohol-based sanitizer before moving on to another machine.

Cover any cuts or breaks in the skin with a bandage. Do not use saunas and swimming pools if you’ve got open wounds, skin infections, or cold sores. It will make you more susceptible to contracting skin infections from contaminated water.

3. Shower hygiene is vital

Who wouldn’t want to indulge in a long cold shower after a sweat-breaking workout? It’s that moment we all look forward to as we push ourselves over the limit on that final machine.

Always wear rubber flip-flops when having a shower – or even if you’re heading to the pool area. Athlete’s Foot is highly contagious if you’re walking around barefoot in warm, humid places. Using an antifungal powder or cream as a prevention won’t hurt.

Use a clean towel to dry yourself thoroughly, especially your feet and between your toes. Do not wear the same socks after a shower. Fungi and bacteria flourish in sweaty shoes and socks. Pack a change of clothes and spare shoes before heading to the gym.

Once you get home, throw all your gym wear, including towels and swimsuits, straight into the washer. Wipe the insoles of your sneakers with a disinfectant. Occasionally wash your shower sandals or flip flops in a bleach solution. You might also want to soak your gym bag in hot water.

4. Follow basic personal hygiene

Even the most obvious sanitary practices tend to be left out. Here are some other gym hygiene tips:

- Don’t go to the gym if you’re not feeling well at all. Your blood might be pumping for some exercise, but you must be considerate of others.

- Wash your hands regularly and properly, and even more frequently if you’re visiting the gym during influenza season.

- Do not share or borrow personal care products, like brushes, body creams, deodorant, soap, combs and razors.

- Don’t leave any sweaty gym wear in your bag. It’s true that the least thing you feel like doing after an exhausting workout is washing your dirty tracksuit, but you wouldn’t want your gym bag to become a petri dish for germs either.

- Avoid touching your face while you’re working out.

- Take your own yoga mat. Remember that the yoga mats supplied by the gym might not have been disinfected.

- If you’re drinking from a plastic bottle, do not reuse without first rinsing it in hot water. Bacteria build up in unwashed plastic bottles, particularly around the rim and the mouth. Preferably you should use stainless steel bottles.

- Choose the right gym club. It’s always a good idea to visit the gym and observe its level of cleanliness before applying for a membership.

Above all, do not hesitate to approach the gym management if you need to report poor hygiene practices at the facilities.


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