If you belong to a gym and use it regularly, good for you! I go a few times a week for upper body strengthening, for I like to mix up my workouts with outdoor and indoor activities weighted fairly equally. Yesterday I found myself ready to cancel my membership at LA Fitness and had a “flashback” of frustration I’ve felt previously at other gyms. I once again faced down germs at the gym.
Maybe you’ve been here. I walked over to a pull-down machine and found it totally dripping with sweat from the previous user—mine is a co-ed gym, by the way. The wetness was so gross I grabbed several paper towels and swathed them with antibacterial gel. Last week, I got on a treadmill that was in the same sad shape—drops of wet sweat on the machine’s track, on the console and adjacent areas.
This is obviously (partially) about the previous user being inconsiderate or entitled. That doesn’t make it any easier for the next well-meaning user.
Enough germs at the gym
I’ve been using the elliptical machines regularly since I joined less than a year ago, and can see a steady buildup of—let’s call it (nicely) “residue”—in the cup holders, on the console and the “neck” area just below the console, and on the treads and supporting parts. I can’t imagine, or maybe I can, what a swab would reveal when its contents were placed under the microscope.
Just say I’m confused that no one is cleaning this equipment thoroughly, given the high membership numbers and what each person must be paying on average. That said I—and you—should be aware that these locations are great places for these germs to set up shop before they hop on you.
Don’t touch that
Here’s what’s lurking on the surfaces of…
that dirty gym equipment:
- klebsiella: found in fecal matter, it can cause a wide range of infections
- e.coli: also found in unpleasant places, it causes—you guessed it—e. coli infections with gastrointestinal symptoms
- staphylococcus aureus or staph: Staph infections can be annoying at the least, life-threatening at the worst.
bathrooms and showers:
- human papillomavirus: a common sexually-transmitted disease that you can get without having sex
- candida: the prime suspect in yeast infections
- streptococcal bacteria: the cause of strep throat and upper respiratory infections
- athlete’s foot (tinea pedis): very contagious, it’s caused by two different types of fungus: trichophyton mentagrophytes, which is easier to treat than trichophyton rubrum. Yes, there’s a fungus among us.
What to do to combat germs at the gym? First, join a gym that pays attention to cleanliness—be tough and ask how often equipment is cleaned, and look around closely during your visit. Once there, carry your own clean towel and hand sanitizer—or use those provided by the gym. Wear shoes or flip-flops in the shower. Cover cuts and scrapes with bandages and don’t use shared yoga mats.
(Photo courtesy: ddpavumba at Free Digital Images)