According to one study, the average treadmill in a public gym is teaming with germs; more than one million per square inch. That’s about 74 times more than you’d find on a public bathroom faucet. Some of the common culprits are Athlete’s Foot, cold and flu viruses, staph, Ecoli and Hep A, and ringworm. According to public health officials, the Coronavirus will likely be added to this list soon. But before you run screaming from the gym, or worse, decide to give up your workouts, take heart. There are some very easy steps you can take to avoid gym critters and remain healthy.
1- WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE & AFTER WORKING OUT
According to the CDC, the proper way to wash your hands is to rinse them with running water (warm OR cold) turnoff the tap and apply soap. Lather your hands by rubbing them together. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Rinse your hands thoroughly and dry with towels or warm air. As a personal trainer, I will also rub my hands with isopropyl alcohol wipes between clients. Hand sanitizers are helpful but they are no substitute for soap and water.
2- WIPE DOWN EQUIPMENT BEFORE AND AFTER USE
Sweat and germs can linger on gym surfaces for hours. This includes benches, handles, free weights, medicine balls and yoga mats. Most gyms have sanitizing wipes or sprays. It’s not a bad idea to carry a small pump bottle in your gear. A 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar will do the trick. I have Lysol and alcohol in my trainer’s office.
3- AVOID TOUCHING YOUR FACE, MOUTH, NOSE & EYES
This is huge. Flu researchers have observed that most people touch their faces 3-4 time per hour and common objects just as frequently per hour. You may not realize that the most common method of transferring cold and flu germs is not by someone coughing on your face, but by touching your nose or mouth after touching and infected surface. Men are worse at this than women. HELPFUL HINT: Clean your cellphone!!! You touch it nearly 3000 times a day.
4- ALWAYS COVER CUTS, SCRATCHES, & BROKEN SKIN
Don’t make it easy for germs! Ask for a bandaid if you get a scratch and never pick at your skin while in the gym.
5- ALWAYS WEAR SHOES
Do I need to say this? Apparently I do because I have seen barefoot people on the gym floor. It’s probably a good idea to wear shower shoes in the locker room as well. Also, never share towels.
By taking a few simple precautions at the gym, you can get a good workout while staving off illness.
Philip Hitchcock is an independent, Certified Personal Trainer specializing in “Fitness after 40,” Resistance Training and Weight Loss. He maintains his own client base and is also the exclusive trainer for the Four Seasons Hotel. Check out HitchcockFitness.com