We all know the health and wellbeing benefits of a hard session at the gym, but at the same time, a gym full of sweaty bodies and sweaty clothes creates the ideal environment for breeding bacteria, germs and other nasties, especially in high-touch areas such as exercise equipment and communal changing areas.
Good gym hygiene can help limit your exposure to germs and bacteria, reducing the risk of picking up a cold or fungal infection such as athlete’s foot.
Germ proof your workout with these ten gym-smart hygiene habits:
1. Scrub Up: Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly pre- and immediately post-workout. That means washing your hands for at least twenty seconds with an anti-bacterial soap. If you can’t wash your hands, use a sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and re-sanitise every time you finish using a machine or other equipment to limit the spread of germs and bacteria.
2. Wipe Down Equipment: Germs love to lurk on sweaty gym equipment. Always use the spray or wipes provided to wipe down equipment before you use it. It is good gym etiquette to do the same again when you’re finished; it’s not only about your own personal hygiene, but it’s also about creating a clean and pleasant space for everyone to train in.
3. Hands Off: This is a tough one, but try to avoid touching your face as you work out. Bacteria breeds on sweaty equipment and if you touch your face just once, you’re transferring germs directly to your skin, potentially leading to breakouts and skin infections. Avoid wiping sweat away from your face with your hand – use a clean towel to mop it up instead.
4. Hit the Shower: Resist the temptation to crash out at home in your gym kit after a session – bacteria thrive in damp, sweaty clothes and sweat clogs skin pores. Wash your face, shower and put on clean, fresh and dry clothes straight after your workout.
5. Feet First: The damp, moist environment of the showers and locker rooms can harbour all sorts of bugs and fungi. Help protect your feet from fungus, and coming into contact with wart and other viruses, by wearing a pair of shower flip flops. Always wash and dry your feet thoroughly, making sure to pay special attention between the toes and use an anti-fungal powder if you’re prone to athlete’s foot.
6. Don’t Let Your Kit Fester: Bacteria flourishes in sweaty gym kit – make sure to wash your kit straight after use and never leave your kit lying around in your bag for days. Take care not to contaminate your gym bag – germs love dark, moist environments – by using a plastic bag to put your used kit in, including your shoes. The same goes for yoga mats and other personal equipment – give them a wipe over straight after your workout and store them in a cool, dry environment.
7. Don’t Share Your Stuff: We’ve all done this, but this rule is extra important at the gym. Never share personal items such as hairbrushes, roll-on deodorant, towels, make up and water bottles – you could be transferring bacteria, fungi, yeast and viruses from person to person. If that’s not enough to hit your “gross” threshold, bear in mind that staph infections, warts and other viruses are all commonly transmitted in this way.
8. Take a Rest Day: If you’re streaming with cold, do everyone a favour and take a rest day – there are no brownie points for spreading your germs to everyone else. By the same token, if you’ve an open wound or break in your skin, cover it and stay away from communal areas like the pool and jacuzzi. If you’re ill, not only are you likely to transmit germs, but you’re also more susceptible yourself to catching other lurking bacteria and viruses.
9. Go Make-Up Free: We all want to look good as we work out, but the combination of sweat and wearing make-up can produce excess oil which clogs open pores, a prime cause of skin break outs. Going make-up free helps the skin to breathe through open pores. If you really can’t go without it, wear light, mineral based make-up to help minimise clogging.
10. Assess your Environment: There’s a lot you can do to create your own hygienic personal space at the gym. But it’s also important that your gym takes hygiene seriously too and provides a safe, clean and hygienic environment for you to train in. Take a look at communal areas – are they clean and tidy? Are there facilities for wiping down machines and other equipment? Is there a clear set of hygiene rules for members and how often do you see housekeeping staff? Make sure that your gym cares about hygiene as much as you do, and select a gym that ticks all of those boxes.