Beat Those Gym Germs!
I don’t know about where you live, but here in New York City it seems like everyone – including yours truly – has been fighting a cold bug since fall arrived. While exercise can help keep your immune system strong, there are some simple steps you can take to make sure that workout does your body good and not have you bringing home a boatload of bacteria that can make you sick.
Bacteria and viruses ranging from the common cold bug to the antibiotic-resistant MRSA love to lurk and grow in a moist, warm environment which is exactly what the gym provides. Instead of letting the fear of catching a cold (or worse) keep me out of the gym, I take a few simple measure to try and prevent bringing to the pesky germs home.
- Pre-workout prep: Cover cuts or scrapes with adhesive bandages. I have a bad habit of biting my cuticles and if I do more damage than usual, I’m sure to put some antibiotic cream on the open skin and cover it up before I hit the gym or park.
- At the gym: Almost all facilities provide paper towels and anti-bacterial spray or disinfectant wipes to clean off equipment. It only takes an extra minute or two before you start dripping your own sweat on a machines to remove what the person before you left behind. Wipe down handles, setting buttons, bars and pretty much anything you grip or press before you use it. Follow good gym etiquette wipe down the equipment when you’re done, too.
- Group classes: If you’re a regular at a class that requires a mat, why not bring your own from home. (With the holidays fast approaching, if you don’t have on, think about putting it on your wish list.) If you do use a studio mat, cover it with a clean towel.
- Post-workout: If you shower at the gym, invest in a cheap pair of flip-flops or water shoes and wear them not only in the shower itself, but as you walk around the locker room. It’s pretty disgusting to think about some of the things lurking on floor tiles that were brought in from the soles of sneakers and other street shoes.
- Avoid touching your face: Make a conscious effort to NOT rub your eyes with sweaty, dirty gym hands. Your tear ducts are an easy entry for germs to get into your system, so don’t make it any easier for them to get in. Before you leave the gym, be sure to wash your hands with warm water. If you’re in a huge rush, be sure to at least wipe them down with antibacterial gel.
One final note, if you’re sick and not sure whether to work out, the general rule of thumb is if your symptoms are above the shoulders, it’s probably okay, but don’t overdo it. If you have a fever, severe cough or chest congestion or a stomach bug, do everyone a favor and stay home! By listening to your body and using some common sense, we can all help each other get through the “germy” season and still have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!