Gym-fit or Germed Up?
Sally Perkins looks at the importance of hygiene when using gym equipment.
Whether a fitness enthusiast with home equipment or a gym owner, putting hygiene first is a must. Not only can unsanitary equipment put off potential users, but the lack of a rigorous cleaning regime may allow germs to accumulate and contaminate those who come into contact with them. If precautions are not taken to prevent this, the unwary fitness enthusiast's urge to keep fit may well lead to an illness, and the need to put a training programme on hold during the recovery period.
A Germ Playground
Gym machinery and equipment can become a perfect habitat for germs. Packed with weights machines, cardio equipment, mats and free weights, in a medium-sized gym any one piece of equipment can come into contact with over thirty people a day. If just one of those thirty people is careless with their hygiene regimes, that means twenty-nine other people a day coming into contact with their sweat and their germs. It is not just the machines; the water fountain tap, the shower room floor, the paper towel dispenser are all areas in which bacteria can breed and spread - it could put some off going for a workout forever! However, kept in perspective, some of these hazards are unavoidable in day-to-day life, for example on public transport, so it is not a case of just avoiding the gym to stay healthy.
A regular cleaning routine in the gym not only results in a decreased likelihood of becoming ill, it also enhances the equipment's effectiveness. For instance, fitness machines with heart-rate sensors are very sensitive and will be less accurate if the sensor pads are dirty, and machines will gradually become damaged if they are exposed to sweat and dust. Whilst most gyms provide sanitising spray to be used on machinery, and this should definitely be taken advantage of, it would not hurt to carry a little bottle of hand sanitiser and ensure hands are washed both before and after a training session. Workout kit should be removed from gym bags and put on a warm wash cycle as soon as possible after a training session. Some also recommend using supplements to boost the immune system, in order to reduce the chances of becoming ill.
Finally, when embarking on a training regime, no matter how determined the participant they should follow the rules of common sense when it comes to their health. If they have an illness, they would be advised to take a day or two out of their training programme. The dangers of going to the gym when unwell are not only that others may be infected, but a person who is unwell may injure themselves through lack of focus due to their illness, potentially resulting in having to drop their training routine, at least for a short while.
Although gyms can be a breeding place for germs, this should not be a reason to avoid them. When choosing a gym, potential members should look out for whether they promote good hygiene practices; do they have sanitising spray, are members encouraged to wipe down machines, is the area clean? Members should supplement these considerations by ensuring their own hygiene practises are stringent, particularly after a gym session. These precautions should minimise the chances of coming into contact with germs and being able to enjoy pursuing fitness goals uninterrupted by illness.
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About the Author
Sally Perkins is a professional freelance writer with many years' experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and travelling as much as possible.
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