Gym workouts are a great way to stay healthy, but those testosterone-filled rooms are also a hotbed for germs infested places.
The Locker Room
It’s wet and warm in there, so locker rooms make the perfect petri dish for staph, strep, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and HPV infections. Philip Tierno Jr., a doctor of microbiology and pathology at NYU Medical School and the author of The Secret Life of Germs, says the dangers start on the main locker room floor, where people walk in with fecal matter on their shoes. The organisms in the fecal matter can give you stomach flu and hepatitis A, so never walk barefoot.
Avoid dropping your gym bag on the floor because it can also pick up those germs. At some point that bag will end up in your hands, lap, car seat and (possibly) your bed. Back at the gym, try to set it on the bench or a gym towel.
Speaking of Locker Room Benches
Never sit on a locker room bench buck naked. If another dude did it — and someone probably did — the germs from his butt can catch a ride on yours. And who knows what that creepy guy with the twitchy left eye has going on inside his body.
And Speaking of Gym Bags
After working out, put your sweaty clothes into a compartment reserved for them, and clean that compartment with disinfectant wipes or spray when you get home. You can also put clothes in a plastic bag that you throw out later. Vinyl or plastic gym bags are less likely to hold onto germs and bacteria, but if you have a canvas or cloth bag, be sure to wash it weekly in hot water using a bleach or peroxide-based detergent.
The button and sides are often covered in germs, and the fountains themselves can carry other people’s spit on them. Heck, some guys even use them as a loogie depository while playing sports. Plus, the water nozzle rarely gets cleaned inside, and bacteria has been shown to grow there.
Get a Reusable Water Bottle
If you buy water in a plastic bottle, never reuse it. Every time you take a gulp there’s a little backwash, leaving thousands of bacteria in the bottom that can fester and multiply, especially if you leave your bottle in a warm car or room during the day. Invest in a wide-mouthed bottle that you can wash, and avoid putting your dirty gym hands on the mouth of the bottle.
Mats can contain skin infections like athlete’s foot, as well as flu and cold germs and hepatitis A. They’ve also been shown to hold Klebsiella, which most commonly results in urinary tract infections and pneumonia.
The simplest solution is to bring your own mat, but if you’re stuck with a communal one, wipe it down with a bleach-based wipe and let it air dry.
Workout Machines, Free Weights and Exercise Balls
Most gyms do a good job of wiping down their equipment, but they’re not doing it all day long after each use. Wipe down equipment with a disinfectant wipe before use, and it’s just polite to do the same thing after — especially if you’re sweating all over a cardio machine. Avoid touching your face or eyes while working out, and wash your hands after you’re done.
What About the Swimming Pool?
Sorry, kids, but the Centers for Disease Control report that “62 percent of pool-related diarrhea outbreaks are the result of the chlorine-resistant pathogen cryptosporidium, which is spread by fecal matter.” There’s also an increased risk of eye and ear infections.
Your gym should pH test and clean the pool daily, and that information should be posted somewhere by the pool. If not, let your nose guide you. “Because chlorine releases its distinct smell as it reacts with microorganisms, the stronger the chlorine scent, the dirtier the pool.”
This isn’t meant to scare you into showering with Lysol, or give you permission to sit home and watch TV over endless plates of Doritos nachos. You still need to work out, eat right and enjoy yourself in order to maintain good health — but you should be informed in order to keep those nasty gym germs from getting you sick.