As the number of gyms opening up continues to rise, more and more people are joining up to improve their health and fitness. Working out in your local gym is commonly becoming part of everyday life and why not? Exercise is proven to decrease stress, improve energy levels and healthy people typically have a lower risk of developing certain diseases.
However, whilst regular gym attendance has health benefits, is the gym itself maintaining high standards for cleanliness in order to sustain a hygienic environment for working out?
Gym equipment can become contaminated with bacteria through bodily fluids such as sweat. As someone visiting the gym tends to use multiple machines, sweat can be disseminated quite quickly. If a gym does not have a daily cleaning regime, this could result in an unhygienic training environment.
There are a number of habits that a gym member could benefit from when attending their gym to avoid catching any nasty bugs or infections. These would include cleaning equipment and being mindful of any cuts and scrapes that could be susceptible to bacteria entering the body.
But how careful do you need to be? Continue reading to find out how germ-infested equipment really is and what you can do to protect yourself.
GYM GERMS STATISTICS
A study that was carried out involved testing of bacteria samples on 27 pieces of gym equipment such as a treadmill. These tests determined that, on average, germs amounted to more than 1 million per square inch on each item, with 70% of that bacteria being potentially harmful to humans.
When you compare these bacteria levels to items that you are likely to encounter on a daily basis, the differences are quite startling. For example; the tests showed there to be 74 times more bacteria on a treadmill when compared to a regular household tap. Even more shocking, there were 362 times more bacteria on free weights than a toilet seat.
Whilst it’s clear that equipment in a commercial gym harbours a significant number of germs, when you consider the amount of people who visit the gym on any given day, who touch and handle various surfaces and pieces of equipment, it’s not really surprising.
WHAT BACTERIA IS ON GYM EQUIPMENT
Following on from the tests that were undertaken, it did show that certain germs were more prevalent than others with the most common being ringworm, a fungal infection, and MRSA, a well known ‘super bug’ that is highly transmissible. But what other bacteria did the tests show?
Most commonly known as Athletes Foot. You could pick this up in the changing and shower rooms so try and avoid walking around bare foot as this is when you’ll likely pick up this nasty foot infection.
This bacteria causes a number of skin infections and even though it can live on many people’s skin with no issue, it can enter the body via open wounds so be sure to keep any cuts and scrapes sufficiently covered.
This is essentially the common cold and one of the most common infections around. If equipment is not properly disinfected, Rhinovirus can survive on surfaces for a number of days.
HOW DO YOU CLEAN DIRTY EXERCISE EQUIPMENT
In order to safeguard their members, it’s necessary for a gym owner or Manager to ensure that gym equipment is cleaned on a daily basis to avoid the spread of germs and subsequently infections.
The cleaning method will likely differ depending on the specific piece of equipment and whilst it will be necessary to use chemicals, it’s important to ensure these do not cause damage to the equipment.
Many FDA approved cleaners that disinfect and kill germs and infections are water based. Any water based cleaner should not be used on certain parts of gym equipment such as rails on a leg press or hack squat. This is because the formation of rust can take place on raw steel which can reduce the life span of the equipment.
It’s also worth noting, anything such as printed logos that feature on upholstery pads. Consider the best cleaner to use that will kill pathogens but at the same time not cause damage to the kit. Some harsh cleaners can degrade any printing and eventually remove it all together. It would be sensible to have a range of cleaners that suit the individual parts of equipment.
When it comes to frequency, cleaning of all machines should be done at least once a day. In a busy gym, twice a day would be preferable.
HOW TO AVOID GERMS IN THE GYM
As we become more aware of our health and the environments where we work, play and train, we now expect environments to live up to our standards and a strict cleaning protocol sits with the responsibility of the gym owner.
That being said, due to the footfall in a commercial gym throughout the day, doing a daily clean either first thing in the morning or upon closure may not be enough. However, it’s impractical for a gym owner or manager to clean equipment many times throughout the day.
This is one of the reasons it’s encouraged for a gym member to clean the equipment just prior to use. It’s not uncommon nowadays to see plentiful amounts of disinfectant spray and tissue paper available, along with antibacterial hand gels. It’s not expected that the member would clean the entire piece of equipment, rather that they wipe down the touchpoints of what they have just used.
What’s more, as a gym-goer, additional healthy practices which could help to stave off infections would include cleaning down kit both before and after use, avoid touching your face, don’t walk around barefoot and be sure to change out of your gym kit as soon as possible after you’ve finished your workout.
One could argue that it’s not the responsibility of the gym member, nor is it best use of their time. However, their health could depend upon it. By incorporating these actions when visiting the gym, you’ll be sure that the benefits of your workout are not affected by catching any unwanted infections. It’s also courteous to other gym members.