Germs At The Gym And How To Avoid Them

By Wendy Innes. May 7th 2016

Everyone goes to the gym in order to stay fit and healthy, but few people know that their gym could actually be making them sick. Gyms are germ infested places, but this doesn't mean that there aren't things that can be done to reduce the risk of getting sick while pumping some iron.

The Most Common Germs At The Gym

Here is a list of several common, albeit very yucky, germs found in gyms:

  • Candida: This fungus is the culprit responsible for vaginal yeast infections in women, as well as jock itch in men and ringworm and athlete's foot in both sexes. It loves warm moist places so it takes up residence in places like showers and saunas.
  • Influenza: This is the virus responsible for the flu. While not usually serious, if someone has a compromised immune system it can be. There is no cure for the flu, but an annual flu shot each year can help.
  • Streptococcal bacteria: There are more than 20 different strains of strep that can cause infection, though the most common problems include upper respiratory infections and strep throat. This is spread through contact, either with an infected person or with a surface that has been contaminated such as sweaty gym equipment.
  • Staphylococcus Aureus: Staph as it is commonly known, results in skin rashes in most cases but it can also cause more serious problems such as pneumonia, sepsis (a potentially deadly type of inflammation) meningitis, and methicillin resistant staph aureus, known as MRSA for short.
  • Klebsiella: This is a bacterium that is usually found in the stool and intestines, but it can cause serious infections. The type of infection it causes depends upon how it enters the body. Most common are urinary tract infections and pneumonia, while less common are meningitis and blood infections.
  • Escherichia Coli: Commonly known as E. coli, this bacterium causes gastrointestinal infections. While not serious to most people, it can be life threatening to those with weakened immune systems and serious complications such as dehydration can result.
  • Human Papillomavirus: HPV as it is commonly known is considered a sexually transmitted disease, but sex is not the only way it can be spread. It can cause plantar (foot) warts as well as genital warts. It is also the cause of the majority of cervical, penile and anal cancers. There is no cure for HPV, though there are vaccines available for those under the age of 25.

10 Effective Ways To Avoid Germs At The Gym

While it's impossible to avoid every germ, there are some simple things that can be done to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill.

1. Check out the gym before joining

When going to sign up, look around. Is it clean or does it seem a little dirty? Does it smell musty? Simply being observant can tell a lot about how the facilities are kept, and in turn a lot of about the likelihood of germs lurking on surfaces.

2. Clean machines

Most gyms offer (and if they don't they should) cleaner and towels to use between members. This is so that no one has to sit or lie on anyone else's bodily fluids, namely sweat. Be sure to use it each and every time when switching machines.

3. Shower

Ok this is sort of a no brainer, but showering helps remove germs from the surface of the body, making it harder for those germs to find a place to enter the body, so the sooner the shower occurs after the workout, the better. Plus who wants to walk around sweaty all day?

4. Don't go barefoot

While this isn't much of an issue on the gym floor, in locker rooms, steam rooms and near pools it can add up to a case of foot fungus at the very least. So it's always best to have some type of footwear on at all times.

5. Cover cuts

Not only do open wounds and sores allow the person with the sore to spread germs, they also allow new germs to enter the body which could mean big trouble. So keep even small cuts and scrapes covered, even if it's just while working out.

6. Don't share gear

While we all learned about sharing in kindergarten, when it comes to gym equipment such as towels or mats, it's best not to. This avoids the possibility of becoming infected from someone else's germs.

7. Keep dirty and clean items separate

This is easier said than done when in a rush to leave the gym to get to work or to some other important event. But keeping dirty sweaty items such as clothes, towels and even shoes separated from clean items in one's bag or locker, can reduce the chances of being exposed to bacteria that may have been picked up.

8. Keep covered up

While it's cool that some people are comfortable in their own skin and don't mind running around the locker room in the buff, it can leave a person vulnerable to infection from surfaces like benches. Simply sitting on a contaminated bench can lead to a case of jock itch or a vaginal yeast infection, so it's best to stay covered up.

9. BYO Water

While most gyms offer water fountains or coolers for their members, numerous studies have confirmed that these places are breeding grounds for bacteria. So it is a better idea to bring water from home in a clean container, or grab a fresh bottle at the store before hitting the gym.

10. Don't touch your face with dirty hands

Most people's hands sweat when they work out and they don't even notice. They will then touch one of the machines or the floor or some other surface, picking up bacteria in the process. By avoiding touching one's face, it reduces the risk of allowing germs to enter the body through the mucus membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth, the most common places for infections to get in.

Bottom Line

Going to the gym is good for the body, the mind and the spirit, but all the germs found there can be dangerous. By following these tips, people can reap the benefits without the all the risk.


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