It’s the middle of winter, and it’s prime cold, flu, and assorted nasty stomach bug season. Exercise can help boost your immune system and combat those winter blues. But how do we keep ourselves healthy when we step into that fitness petri dish?
Here are some healthy practices to take with you to avoid those winter (and year-round) germs at the gym.
Wash your hands.
Hands down (pun intended) one of the easiest and best things you can do!
Not only does handwashing significantly reduce respiratory and nasty gastrointestinal bugs, but it also helps battle antibiotic resistance and superbugs. Now that’s pretty cool.
When in doubt, wash your hands. Especially after your workout, so you don’t bring all those germs home with you. Other imperative handwashing times are after using the bathroom and before touching food.
I was also impressed by these two other articles with excellent handwashing info:
Cough and sneeze the right way.
There’s a wrong way to cough and sneeze? Yes, there is.
Even if you’re not sick, coughs and sneezes are unavoidable. Best practices include covering your mouth with a tissue or upper sleeve, not into the abyss for everyone else to enjoy. Ew…
Then wash your hands.
Here’s a link to the CDC Coughing and Sneezing Etiquette. Your fellow gym-goers will thank you.
Wipe down equipment before and after use.
No matter how much you wash your hands, you will come in contact with germs. Pay special attention to areas where everyone touches, like handles. Be proactive and wipe down equipment before and after use.
Some group fitness classes require a lot of gear. Make sure to get there early, gather it all up, and give it a wipe down before you start.
Speak up if your gym is slacking on the sanitizing supplies – it’s your health!
Bring your own mat.
I don’t want a side of norovirus with my namaste.
Avoid sharing germs with others by bringing your own mat to the gym. If you need to use a community mat, thoroughly wipe down with disinfectant provided by the gym and use a clean towel over the mat for an added layer of protection.
Side note: make sure to wipe down your personal mat too! Mats are made out of various materials, so make sure to check what types of sprays or washing techniques are safe for your mat.
Bring a towel to cover equipment.
Everyone should be wiping down equipment, but the reality is they don’t, or it’s a very quick afterthought in an I’m just doing this for show kind of way.
Another great thing to do is to cover the seat/bench with a towel. This helps to reduce the risk of skin infections in addition to other unwelcome microbes.
Don’t walk around barefoot.
Shower areas, pools, steam rooms, saunas, and anywhere it’s wet is a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, and fungus. Protect yourself against athlete’s foot and plantar warts by always wearing a pair of flip-flops.
Avoid touching your face.
This includes face, eyes, nose, mouth, or even touching the mouthpiece of your water bottle. Don’t give germs an express route into your system.
Caution when filling up water bottles, use a bottle filling station instead of the water fountain if available.
Give me some space.
It’s never cool to be right on top of someone, and I’m a big advocate for personal space anyway.
Airborne germs can easily travel from person to person. If it’s not overly crowded, try to give people some space: hint, hint person who jumps on the treadmill right next to me in an empty gym.
Wipe down your smartphone.
Don’t forget to wipe your smartphone down. You know, the one that went everywhere with you around the gym while you touched all those nasty surfaces.
You don’t have to use the gym in a hazmat suit, just use these common-sense hygiene tips.
These are simple practices to include in your routine year-round to help you get the best defense against germs. Many of these tips are not just limited to the gym, but any public place as well.
Want more? Check out some other great content while you’re here!
Featured image credit: Kayla Butler / ivorymix.com
References & Resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018 Sept 17) Show Me The Science – Why Wash Your Hands? Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019 July 12) Show Me The Science – How to Wash Your Hands. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-handwashing.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019 Sept 17) Show Me The Science – When & How to Use Hand Sanitizer in Community Settings. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016 July 26) Coughing & Sneezing. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/etiquette/coughing_sneezing.html