For many people, going to the gym is part of their daily routine, but did you know that the gym is a breeding ground for germs and bacteria? In fact, one recent study by equipment review website Filtrated even found that gym equipment has more germs than a toilet seat. The study found 70 per cent of gym equipment had germs that caused skin infections and illnesses. Treadmills and bikes had the highest amount of bacteria, 74 times the amount of bacteria found on a tap in a public toilet to be precise. And free weights had 362 times the amount of germs as a toilet seat.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see how a gym is the perfect environment to pick up your next illness, so we’ve made a list of the most common infections you can pick up from the gym, and how to avoid them.
1. Athlete’s foot
This one is more commonly picked up at gyms that have pools, showers and change rooms. It can present as white scaly skin on the sides and bottom of your feet, soft white skin between the toes and yellow toenails. The best thing you can do to avoid this is to always wear shoes wherever you are in the gym, and always keep your feet clean and dry.
2. Cold and flu virus
Strains of cold and flu virus can live on the skin for up to three hours, and on a surface for up to four hours, and you’ll most commonly find it lurking on hand weights, cycling handles, treadmill screens and other equipment. The best way to avoid taking the virus home with you is by wiping the equipment down with antibacterial wipes before you start, avoid touching your face, nose or mouth while at the gym and wash your hand before and after use.
3. Staphylococcus Aureus (staph)
Staph is a bacteria that lives on skin and in your nose and is spread by touching. If you use gym equipment after someone carrying the bacteria, and you have an open wound or cut on your hand, you might find that the result is a bumpy rash, skin swelling, boils or even fevers. Always cover any cuts or open wounds before going to the gym, no matter how minor.
4. E.coli and Hepatitis A
E.coli is a bacteria and Hepatitis A is a virus that are both spread by people who haven’t washed their hands correctly after going to the bathroom, then use gym equipment, spreading the germs. If you pick one of these up symptoms include cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Avoid touching you face and mouth at all during your sweat session at the gym.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that can appear anywhere on the body as small scaly patches of skin. Avoid picking it up by always wearing shoes, washing your hands, changing out of sweaty clothes as soon as possible and airing out damp shoes.
How to avoid gym germs
- Wash your hand before and after attending
- Wipe down equipment before and after use
- Avoid touching face, nose and mouth during your visit
- Always cover cuts, wounds or broken skin
- Always wear shoes
- Never share towels
- Limit person-to-person contact
- Change out of sweaty gym clothes as soon as possible
- Bring your own workout mat
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