Fall is upon us and so is cold and flu season. One of the top ways to prevent getting sick is exercise. Exercise improves your overall fitness, which can help boost your immune system, the body’s defense against infections. This can be problematic however, because the gym is a breeding ground for germs. The odds of you getting sick are stacked against you, from equipment not being properly wiped down, dirty door handles/drinking fountains and a lot of possibly sick people in close proximity.The Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found that 63 percent of all gym equipment is contaminated with rhinovirus, which causes the common cold. The cold virus can live on hard surfaces for up to seven days. We have to work out, so what do we do? Below are 5simple steps to protect yourself at the gym this cold and flu season. Stay fit and Healthy. Here’s how.
1 – Bring your own sanitizing wipes to wipe down equipment
Most gyms offer towels and some type of cleaning spray. They may list what the ingredients are, but more often than they use unmarked bottles, which are presumably bleach and water. You can’t be sure what your using and what it is even doing to protect you. Bring your own portable, pre-moistened hand wipes. They are easy and convenient and they kill 99.99 percent of germs that cause sickness. Wipe down the equipment before you begin. Let’s face it, our gym bags are way bigger than they need to be already. We can all fit a pack of these in it. It will keep you protected from germs and from second guessing if the person before you cleaned the machine (probably not). Also wipe down the free weights and mats you use (just make sure all equipment is properly dried before you use it).
2- Bring your own washcloth to turn sink/shower handles and curtains.
You can use it to turn the shower handle, move the shower curtain and use the faucet. You may think you are in a safe zone being in a place where people clean themselves but showers are great, moist areas for germs to hang out. Shower curtain, tiles and the shower floor can have mildew, a fungus that feeds on body oils. With public showers there is no guarantee how often or how properly they are washed. Many gyms offer their own towels or paper towels at your disposal, but they are in bins and dispensers that are touched by hundreds. Bring your own and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
3 – Consider wearing workout gloves.
They not only will keep your hands protected from picking up sneaky germs, they will also keep your skin protected from possible cuts and brush burns from pull-up bars and iron weights. Open cuts, even as small as a papercut, makes you susceptible to picking up an infection by giving the germs another place to go. Wash them, like you would wash your workout clothes. Remember to becareful to not touch your face. Your hands are being kept clean, the outside of your gloves are not. Your nose, eyes and mouth are the easiest place for germs to ebter. So keep your hands away from your face.
4 – Wear shoes at all times
This includes when you are in the shower and walking across the locker room floor. Aside from possibly picking up cold germs, you could contract athlete’s foot and other viruses. Floors are generally warm and wet from people walking out of the showers, pool or sauna. A gross combination that leads to the development of viruses and fungi. If you use a gym pool invest in some water shoes. For walking around the shower and locker room get an easy slip-on shoe, like a flip flop. This way your feet are protected on the bottom but open on the top so you can get your feet completely clean.
5) Shower Immediately
This is something we are all guilty of. Whether we’re chatting or going for a post-workout smoothie, we still want to show off our cute workout clothes, right? Problem is washing our hands and wiping down the equipment doesn’t always wipe away all the germs you encounter. It is hard to avoid touching things or using the floor and mats for our routines. A hot shower will wash away all sweat, dirt and germs.