How to deal with germs at the gym

How to deal with germs at the gym

You might use lots of excuses to avoid the gym, but don’t let germs be one of them.

Germs are everywhere anyway, and your skin helps protect you. Still, there are things to watch out for when you’re working out.

“The skin is our first line of defense against infection,” says Dr. John Franco, Family Medicine and Medical Director at Advocate Sykes Outpatient Center in Chicago, “So it makes sense that damaged, irritated or sweaty skin after exercise increases our risk of exposure to common skin pathogens.”

Dr. Franco shares a few simple gym hygiene tips that can help you avoid skin conditions like Athlete’s foot, ringworm, jock itch, yeast infections, strep or staph infections.

  • Wash or sanitize your hands
    • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds.
    • Sanitize your hands with the gym’s or your own hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol-based.
  • Clean clothes and shoes
    • Launder your workout clothes after use to avoid the bacteria which can grow on them overnight.
    • Wipe down or wash your gym bag if your sweaty clothes and shoes were carried in it. Fungus and mold are prone to populate in these dark, moist areas.
  • Disinfect your gym equipment before and after use
    • Wipes are usually provided at the gym around the equipment, so grab one and be sure to do a pass over the areas where you sit, hold or continuously touch.
    • Yoga and floor mats are notorious for harboring various unwanted bacteria and mold. To save time, bring your own no-slip yoga towel mat or one that is easy to clean.
  • Wash your face before work out and after during quick shower
    • Take off make-up before working out so your skin can get rid of impurities without being blocked by makeup.
    • Post-workout: Washing your face and whole body will help rid your skin of any remaining germs you might have picked up at the gym.
    • If you shower at the gym, make sure to wear sandals in the shower and wash/dry your feet well. Anti-fungal powder can help prevent Athlete’s Foot.
    • Drying your body off, especially your genital area, is key to not getting jock itch or a yeast infection.
  • Avoid spreading germs
    • Make sure you cover any broken skin with bandages to avoid spreading any body fluids.
    • If you are sick, contagious or have any skin conditions, skip the gym and work out at home or outside.
    • Don’t share personal hygiene items like hairbrushes or towels to avoid yourself and others picking up unwanted germs.

“Practicing good gym hygiene helps you get all the wonderful benefits of exercise to your mind and body without putting your skin at risk,” Dr. Franco says.

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About the Author

Jennifer Benson
Jennifer Benson

Jennifer Benson, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs for Advocate Aurora Health’s Provider, APC, and Nursing Communications team. She has 10+ years of community development and communication experience for non-profits in the Fox Valley area in Illinois. Outside of work you can find her planning the next adventure near water or rocks, re-organizing spaces, entertaining a needy cat, defaulting to curry or taco dinners, making healthy happen in all aspects of life, and growing green things wherever she can find room.