Germs at the Gym

Germs at the Gym

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions, and one of yours might be to spend more time at the gym. Whether you go to burn calories, get fit, or increase endurance, you may get more than you bargained for depending on the hygiene level of the gym. Keeping a gym spotless and germ-free may seem obvious, but according to a study conducted by the International Health, Racquetball and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), 10 percent of members who recently terminated a gym membership state that the facility’s unclean environment played a role in their decision to quit. Some gyms have their trainers and staff wipe down and disinfect equipment, while others have a dedicated cleaning crew. In general, however, all gyms depend on the goodwill and common courtesy of gym members to wipe down the equipment to keep things clean. Unfortunately, the sheer number and of people with varying ideas and degrees of hygiene that pass through the gym daily means there will inevitably be plenty of germs.

A report by Fit Rated, a company that reviews fitness equipment, recruited a lab to test the number and types of bacteria on 27 pieces of equipment at three different gyms. The results showed an average exercise bike contains 39 times more bacteria than a reusable plastic cafeteria tray. Treadmills had 74 times more bacteria than a water faucet handle. Free weights, the biggest offenders, contained an eye-opening 362 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. The types of bacteria they found could cause anything from skin and respiratory infections to pneumonia – and some were even resistant to bacteria.

Contact with germs doesn’t mean you’ll get sick, but it can raise your risk. What can you do to avoid infection?

  • Make sure cuts and open abrasions are covered with some type of bandage.
  • Avoid sharing towels.
  • Wipe down equipment before you use it with a sanitizing wipe and do a courtesy wipe down after you use it.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth when you work out.
  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap after you work out.

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