Gym Germs: Best Practice for Sanitization

Gym Germs

While we’re all home self-isolating and our gyms are closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all learned a great deal about sanitizing ourselves and our surroundings. The hope is that these habits stay instilled, but when life resumes again, our gyms re-open, and the masses return, don’t assume everyone will continue to do the right thing to keep germs at bay!

Last month, I saw the epitome of germ ignorance and a major disregard for gym etiquette. A man walked by me with a small gym towel stuffed up one nostril. He wasn’t holding the towel; it just stayed there. My first thought was he must’ve had a nosebleed. But that wasn’t the case. He walked over to a treadmill to begin his workout, removing the towel and resting it on the treadmill handlebar. He continued to use the towel throughout his exercise routine on various pieces of equipment.

Eek! Now, in fairness, this was before everyone became hyperaware of keeping their ickies to themselves. But, come on! That kind of thoughtlessness is spreading germs all over the place. I credit this man for being the muse for this blog, though.

Firstly, if you have nasal drainage that warrants damming with a towel, you should probably stay home. Secondly, be mindful of where your bodily fluids are being captured and, using common sense, place them in a bin and select a fresh towel for wiping machines.

The gym is a warm environment with emitted body secretions in the air and on surfaces. On crowded days, it can be packed with gym rats exercising close together. It’s like an incubator for germs.

Here are six simple guidelines to ward off the gym germs (many of which we’ve ad nauseum this month):

1. Stay home and get well when you’re sick. At all. If you have a minor cold, go out for a nice walk or run. You don’t need to push your own immune system when it’s healing. Most importantly, it’s not fair to spread your germs to others.

2. Use hand sanitizer. Most gyms provide hand sanitizers, but if not, carry a bottle in your gym bag and keep it with you when you work out. To be effective, they need to be used regularly. Washing your hands with soap and water is the best option, but when that’s not available, alcohol-based (60% or higher) hand sanitizers can be used.

3. Don’t touch your face. Nose or eyes itchy? Use your arm, and if that doesn’t do the trick, get a tissue. Want to spit your gum out? Don’t grab it with your hands or just “spit” it out into the trash (this sprays your saliva everywhere), get a tissue.

4. Consider wearing gloves. I started wearing gloves to protect my hands from calluses and blisters caused by weights, but soon found out I like the extra layer of protection from germs. Avoid touching your face while wearing them, of course.

5. Wipe down equipment. This is the biggest pet peeve people have of those I have surveyed on two different occasions about gym etiquette. Wipe down equipment after exercising to be polite to others, even if you haven’t left a visible halo of perspiration. Wipe down equipment beforehand to protect yourself. Don’t forget, this includes floor mats, balls, weights, kettlebell handles, and rope handles, and don’t forget all areas of cardio equipment you may have touched included the buttons or touchscreen. Didn’t do all that before? Do it now.

6. BYOM. Bring your own mat. Rather than use the gym’s mats, bring your own for floor exercises and stretching.

Exercise is one way to help build and maintain a strong immune system. Other factors include getting adequate sleep, not smoking and eating a healthy diet. Remember the old adage, “The best defense is a good offense?” It stands true in the gym. By avoiding germs, you are less likely to have to fight off a virus or infection.



Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer with more than ten years of personal training experience. Certified through NFPT, she is a Functional Training Specialist and holds a Master Trainer level certificate for resistance, endurance and sports nutrition. Kim has written two books including Gym Etiquette 101. She enjoys writing a variety of lifestyle articles and fitness blogs.
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