It is fashionable for men and women to wear jewellery such as necklaces, watches, rings and earrings, among others. Some of these may be heirlooms, others with some religious and personal importance and there is fear of them being misplaced if removed. Whatever the reason, wearing jewellery while working out or taking part in any sport is not recommended.
Joseph Mawanda, a gym instructor, says it is totally wrong to work out while wearing jewellery since it could not only cause injury to the body but it might get damaged.
In sports, coaches and sports governing bodies advise athletes to take off their jewellery before competitions citing a number of problems, including injury to other competitors.
Health, safety and hygiene
Dr Seven Norman Merica, a physiotherapist at Case Hospital in Kampala, says jewellery is commonly made from metal such as gold, copper, silver, zinc, iron and steel, among others.
He adds that studies have associated hand eczema with wearing jewellery during sporting activities and this is because of the oxidation effect of some of these metal elements.
“Some ornaments such as metal zippers, buttons, and pins can tear the skin if not taken off during a sporting activity,” Dr Merica says.
According to Dr Allan Mwine, a dermatologist, some metals when mixed with sweat can cause skin irritation. Nickel is among the metals most discouraged to be worn to the gym. This is because after reacting with sweat, nickel fades and its substances can get dissolved and be absorbed by the skin.
Hard jewellery such as diamonds and rubies may not be easy to graze, but sometimes they can be cut by other metals in the gym and the fragments can cause skin irritation.
Mwine says the result of this is dermatitis, a skin disorder that appears as a red rash and sores in places which get into contact with the jewellery including earlobes, fingers and the neck.
The human body carries dirt and when it sweats, harmful substances are released. These excretes ought to be washed off from the skin but in case the skin is covered by jewellery, it can harbour germ-causing diseases, leading to infections.
While lifting weights or doing press-ups and boxing for example, rings ought to be taken off to keep them from affecting your grip.
“If you receive a hand or finger injury and swelling occurs, it may be hard to remove the ring. In extreme cases, there may be need to cut off the ring, causing more injury,” he says.
He adds that earrings in particular are prone to being torn from earlobes when you get into contact with colleagues or due to rapid body movement while stretching and working out.
Sarah Karungi, a jewellery dealer at Jemba Plaza in Kampala, says there are two components of fine jewellery and these include gemstones and metals. She adds that for a piece of jewellery to withstand your workout or sporting activity, it depends on its component and the kind of workout.
Karungi adds that gemstones and other non-metallic jewellery are not usually affected by sweat and may not cause skin irritations compared to metallic jewellery However, she warns, after working out, these ought to be washed to get rid of dirt and salt from the sweat.
For those who swim while wearing jewellery, Karungi says, they should know that chlorine can react with metals such as gold and silver and in case of constant contact with chlorine in swimming pools, these can get dented. Such metals can also be scratched by gym equipment.
“Wet skin is also prone to cuts, which are unavoidable with loose metallic jewellery pieces. This means, longer necklaces, charm bracelets, danglers should be left at home,” she says.
Cover with tape
In case one cannot completely do away with jewellery while working out, it is advisable to cover it using cello tape. Mawanda says this prevents earrings and other jewellery from getting caught on clothing and equipment by providing a smooth surface.
However, some types of body jewellery cannot be adequately taped without affecting your range of movement. Tape can also cause skin irritation and discomfort.
Necklaces and chains that are smaller and shorter and can stay closer to the neck can have minimal health impact while working out. Small and light pendants and beaded or leather bracelets, small ear pins and studs that stay in place while working out can hardly cause any trouble.
Light weight jewellery necklaces and earrings are preferred. A bigger bracelet should not be much trouble as long as it does not move around too much to disturb you and others while working out.
Sharper edges on some jewellery can directly cause injury to skin through piercing and scratching, hence such jewellery should be avoided while working out.
“Go for rounder and softer designs to prevent accidents such as skin pierces to you and your neighbours while working out,” Mawanda advises.
Make sure you clean all your jewellery thoroughly every after rigorous exercise to get rid of germs and sweat. If you do decide to wear it while you work out, be sure to wash your jewellery thoroughly with soap and warm water afterwards to remove dirt and sweat. Otherwise, the buildup of bacteria could lead to skin irritation or even worse, infections.
Store it safely
If you are going to the gym straight after work, pack a small box in your bag where you can safely store all your jewellery. Then, keep your bag stored in a locker to prevent theft.