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Gym Germs & Contamination

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 5 Apr 2013 | comments*Discuss
Gym Hygiene Gym Germs Gym Bacteria Gym

You might think that going to the gym is all about getting fit and keeping healthy and, whilst this article would not want to disparage the value of attending a gym, it is worth knowing just how many germs and bacteria are lurking around in such places.

Why Are Germs Present In Gyms?

They are warm environments by the very nature of both the types of equipment that are there including the likes of hot tubs, saunas, solariums etc and because of the activities of gym members where perspiration is the order of the day. In fact, it’s not the actual perspiration which is a problem. It’s that the pools of perspiration which are given off make ideal breeding conditions for bacteria.

But My Local Gym Is Clean and Disinfected

Good gyms naturally have to be kept clean with floors mopped, swept, all the equipment wiped down and pool hot tub areas filtered and kept clean too. However, it doesn’t matter how clean a gym is, the point is that with sweaty hands and bodies continually using the equipment, the possibility of cross-contamination and transmission of germs, bacteria and other viruses is ever present. Take the flu virus, for instance. The virus is present in tiny droplets which pass from a person’s mouth or nose. In gyms and because of perspiring, these will land on equipment just waiting to be picked up by the next person using the same apparatus.

What Other Germs And Bacteria Can Be Found In Gyms?

The presence of fungi can lead to infections such as athlete’s foot. Giardia is also a common protozoa which is often found in hot tubs and swimming pools and can cause diarrhoea. Bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus and streptococci can cause you to suffer from skin infections, are easily transmitted from one person to another and, in severe cases, can even lead to pneumonia.

Minimising The Risks

It’s never going to be possible to completely eradicate all of the germs and bacteria that are present in gyms, just as you wouldn’t be able to do that in your own home, no matter how clean and tidy you keep it. For gym owners themselves, they do have a duty of care under the Health and Safety Act 1974 to keep the gym as clean as is humanly possible. As for us ourselves, we can also take additional precautions and follow certain steps to minimise the risks of infection. These should include:
  • Not touching your face, eyes or mouth whilst you’re working out
  • Carrying around two small towels – one to wipe the equipment down with before you use it and the other to wipe the sweat off you after you’ve used each piece of equipment
  • If you use a sauna, make sure that you don’t sit directly on the seats but on another towel you’ve brought along with you
  • Wash your hands both before and after you’ve completed your gym session and, if possible, try to wash them before and after each time you use a piece of equipment
  • Don’t walk around any area barefoot. Obviously, when getting out of a hot tub or swimming pool, that’s not going to be practical but in dressing rooms etc, always keep a pair of flip-flops or sandals handy

For the most part, our bodies become immune to most common germs that we’re not even aware of throughout our daily lives and, although you might now be concerned about germs and bacteria at your gym, the chances are that providing both the gym is kept clean and well maintained and you take the precautions outlined here, the chances of you picking up any kind of bacteria related illness or virus is unlikely to be any greater than in any other public place.

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