Living Well

Don’t let fear of germs keep you out of the gym

Dr. Nirav Patel
Don’t let fear of germs keep you out of the gym

Making a commitment to go to the gym on a regular basis is a great strategy for improving your overall health and well-being. If you’re afraid that the gym can also be a fertile ground for germs that could make you sick, don't let that stop you from working out. It’s easy to protect yourself by planning ahead and staying vigilant.

Here are some basic precautions to take at the gym to keep bugs at bay.

Cover any wounds

If you have any cuts or wounds, make sure they are covered before you start to exercise. This will help reduce the chance of a skin infection. Also, avoid touching your face after you’ve touched a surface if you have a wound. This will reduce the chance of introducing a pathogen to the environment.

Wipe down equipment

Use anti-microbial wipes or a disinfectant spray to wipe down the handlebars of treadmills, weight machines and other equipment before each use. Many gyms have wipes available, but it’s a good idea to carry your own. Once you’re done, clean the equipment again as a courtesy for the next person.

Bring your own clean towel

While many gyms have clean towels available, you may want to bring your own. Make sure it’s clean before use and laundered after every workout. Your gym bag can harbor bacteria, so clean it regularly as well.

Remember your feet

Walking around the gym or locker room in bare feet will increase your chances of getting staph infection or athlete’s foot. Wear shoes always to prevent catching these infections that are spread by skin contact. In addition, make sure your are wearing clean socks to avoid germs from building up in your footwear.

Clean up after your workout

Take a shower shortly after you exercise to remove any germs that may have come into contact with your skin during your workout.

Keep your workout gear fresh

Once you get home from the gym take a shower as soon as possible and wash your gym clothes. This will remove any germs you may have been in contact with at the gym. Also make sure you are cleaning your water bottles with hot water and soap and not just rinsing them in between use.

Practice good hand hygiene

The best way to protect yourself against getting sick and lessen the spread of germs is to be consistent in cleaning your hands. Wash with soap and hot water if it’s available or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

It’s very important to exercise and be healthy. The health benefits of going to the gym are great, and the risk of getting an infection is relatively low – so don’t avoid they gym because you’re afraid of getting sick. Instead use common sense when visiting the gym and you’ll have a successful workout and not get sick.

Dr. Nirav Patel is University Medical Center's Chief Medical Officer. In this role, he is responsible for directing patient safety and quality in the organization. He serves as liaison to the medical staff and works closely to engage University Medical Center's academic partners in the strategic initiatives that advance University Medical Center's mission. Dr. Patel is a specialist in Infectious Diseases and Critical Care Medicine.