It would be ironical if one went to the gym with the intention of getting healthier only to end up with an infection. Ironical or not, the fact is that the gym is a haven of germs and potential infection if one does not protect themselves.
According to Remmy Semwaka, a fitness trainer, everything you see in the gym from dumbbells, yoga mats, treadmill, even the floor, is covered in various DNA from the numerous people that use it.
He, however, urges gym goers not to get overly concerned by this as it will take away from the benefit of the exercise. He, instead advises them to take the necessary precautions to keep themselves safe.
Limit personal contact
One of the best precautions against gym infections is limiting personal contact. “There are so many germs lurking on people’s skin.
The staphylococcus bacteria, for instance, is passed from person to person but can be prevented by simply not exposing oneself to infected persons,” Semwaka suggests.
According to Dr George Bwesigye, a general physician at Najjera Hospital, a gym is like any other public place where infections such as flu and cough can spread easily.
“Flu and cough viruses are transmitted through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. If the person does it inside the gym, it means there are probably more surfaces harbouring infection,” Dr Bwesigye notes. To protect yourself, wash your hands to get rid of any bodily fluids such as sweat, saliva or mucus.
“Use warm water and soap to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, particularly before touching your face or eating,” he adds.
Do not share personal stuff
Dr Bwesigye says because of the relaxed atmosphere, a gym can morph into a family with members using each other’s things such as yoga mats, boxing gloves, boxing wraps, towels and even water bottles. This is an easy way for viruses such as the herpes virus to spread.
“The best way to prevent the spread of these infections is to avoid contact with anyone who has blisters, especially sharing with them your supplies including your water bottle,” the doctor advises.
Re-using workout gear
Another way one can pick up infections at the gym is never changing your workout shoes and socks. Infection-causing fungus such as athlete’s foot thrives in warm, dark, moist environments just like your shoes after a workout. To prevent such infections, wash and change your shoes, socks and gym clothes frequently.
“There is also a nasty habit where people walk bare foot all over the gym, from the workout area to the showers. This might seem harmless but it exposes people to a strain of human papillomavirus (HPV),” fitness trainer Semwaka advises. To prevent infection, always wear shoes around the gym and bathroom slippers in the shower.
Gym germs in numbers
Anyone who goes to the gym has a higher chance about one in 1,000 of becoming ill from a virus.
• To minimise these chances, first, shower before and after every workout.
• Wipe any gym equipment down with the anti-bacterial spray or wipes both before and after using it.
• Make sure it takes you at least 15 seconds to wipe down any equipment, otherwise it will not work.
• Always wash your hands and avoid touching your face during a workout.