Germs at the gym

We all know that working out is great for your health, and many of us prefer to get our sweat on at the gym. But while they can be an important part of your healthy routine, gyms can unfortunately also serve as hotbeds for pathogens (just look at unsettling news articles like this one). 

Viruses love hard surfaces like metal, plastic, and glass, while bacteria thrive on moist, porous surfaces. Think treadmills, kettlebells, saunas and showers. Some germs die almost immediately when outside the body, but others can thrive for hours or days.

So, what might you come in contact with at the gym?

One study found 25 different types of bacteria on everything from stationary bikes to toilet handles to free weights. Another study focused on a strain of Staphylococcus aureus (also known as Staph) and found high instances on medicine balls, treadmill handles and weight plates. Staph is one of the most common types of bacteria and is the culprit behind skin infections, food poisoning and septicemia.

Here are other infections you can contract at the gym and what causes them:

  • Athlete’s Foot – Caused by fungi that thrive in warm, dark, moist environments, like your sweaty sneakers or locker rooms.
  • Ringworm – Another fungal infection that can appear as scaly circles on your skin anywhere on your body.
  • Cold and Flu – Viral respiratory infections usually transmitted through the air via droplets from coughs or sneezes.
  • Plantar warts – Caused by a strain of human papillomavirus (yes, HPV), which can be picked up by walking barefoot at the gym.
  • Hot tub rash – Caused by a bacteria and can flourish in hot tubs or pools

Before you vow to never set a (hopefully not bare) foot in the gym ever again, note that you can protect yourself from these and other potential germs by simply following precautionary measures like getting a flu shot and using common sense (like not walking barefoot at a gym). 

Be sure to wipe down all equipment before and after you use it, wash your hands often and don’t touch your eyes, mouth or nose while you’re at the gym.

Stay safe out there!