If you’ve ever caught the flu, a respiratory or stomach virus, skin infection or fungus from your gym, you know how frustrating it can be to realize the very thing you do to stay healthy has officially done the exact opposite.
When you find yourself doing cardio on a machine next to an obviously sick, sniffling, or coughing person, and you want to immediately move to another machine, your instincts are right on: that person is ill, and you will be too if you don’t avoid them.
Because so many people use the equipment, there are opportunities for illness all around us every time we set foot in the gym. But fortunately, with the proper precautions, we can all protect ourselves and avoid sickness setbacks.
Below are 8 quick tips to avoid catching gym illnesses:
1. Skip the Door Germs—
Everyone who enters and exits the gym touches the door handle, so if you can use the sleeve of your jacket or even hold a paper towel in your hand to protect you from the door handle on the way in or out, do so.
If you can push the door open with your shoulder and skip touching it with your hand completely, even better. Anyone who thinks you look paranoid can laugh at you from their sickbed.
2. Wash the Hands—
It’s especially important to wash hands before you leave the gym to avoid tracking gym germs all over your car and home, but it doesn’t hurt to pop into the restroom and wash them a time or two during your workout, either.
This may seem excessive, but the more you wash them, the less likely you are to spread anything contagious waiting on gym equipment to yourself and others.
3. Don’t Touch the Face—
Some illnesses are transmitted through the air, but most bacteria are delivered via touch – and nothing allows a virus into your system more easily than rubbing an eye, nose, or mouth.
Because of this, you shouldn’t touch your face at the gym in any way, lest sickness be spread. But learning to never touch the face can require self-control, as many of us do this more than we realize, such as while absentmindedly wiping dripping sweat. Be vigilant.
4. Clean the Machines—
In addition to cleaning the machine after you use it, it’s a good idea to disinfect every machine before you use it as well to remove the germs of everyone who came before you who wasn’t as considerate.
Most gyms provide paper towels and sanitizing spray, but if yours doesn’t, at least carry a towel with which to wipe everything down. And don’t forget to clean the dumbbells and barbells, too.
5. Be More Immune—
Don’t work out while you’re hung over, dehydrated, tired, recovering from an illness, or feeling weakened in any way, because all of these factors can lower your immune system, making it easier for you to get sick.
You may be frustrated to have to skip your workout for a day, but it’s better than losing a week or more because you’ve caught a nasty bug.
6. Forget the Fungus—
If you shower at the gym and don’t wear protective footwear, such as flip-flops, you are practically asking for athlete’s foot, or any other type of contagious skin infection previous shower-goers might have carried in with them.
The moist environment of a locker room is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and viruses, so try not to touch anything, and wash hands frequently. Also consider using a paper towel to open any doors once you’ve washed your hands so you don’t get them germy again.
7. Don’t Use the Lighter Gear—
Obviously you don’t join a gym so you’ll have to drag weights there to work out, but the lighter items, such as resistance bands and sit-up or yoga mats they often provide can be avoided if you bring your own.
It’s really easy to throw everything you need into a gym bag, and using your own things will drastically reduce your chances of catching something from a stranger.
8. Clothes Carry Germs—
You’ve just sat on dirty machines and dripped sweat all over your T-shirt or jacket, and this means they need to go into the wash the second you get home. Bacteria can multiply on damp clothing surprisingly fast, and you don’t want to have washed your hands only to get them germ-covered again with your clothes.
If you can bring clean clothes to the gym and change before you leave, this is a wise move as well.
We exercise is to feel stronger, more energetic, and boost our immune systems, so it’s a real bummer to get sick and tired in pursuit of such healthy goals. Use the smart tips above to keep your fitness program on track and moving forward by avoiding the major setback of catching a gym illness. And if you’re the sick person, please be considerate and skip the gym so you don’t share it with other people… it’s the nice thing to do.