Training

How Hygienic Is Your Gym?

If you’re worried about getting ill, then you might be second guessing the place where you spend the bulk of your time: the gym. With plenty of other people touching, sweating, and spluttering over the surfaces, can you really avoid illness as you exercise? We’ve looked into exactly how hygienic the gym really is and what you can do to stay well.

 

Do you wipe it down?

According to our recent survey of over 4,000 gym-goers, around half of you don’t wipe down equipment after you’ve finished — and we suspect most of you don’t wipe with anti-bac too. Yes, that’s right, simply using your sweaty towel isn’t going to magically sweep up the bacteria or viruses left behind. In fact, if your gym doesn’t offer it, get yourself some anti-bacterial wipes or spray.These are the best way to keep the gym kit clean after you’re finished. It’s also a good idea to wipe down before you start too.

 

What’s the risk?

First of all, microorganisms thrive in warm, moist environments — sound familiar? A 2019 study found that there were more staph bacteria and specifically MRSA (which is resistant to antibiotics) found on medicine balls and treadmill handles than on toilet handles.1 That’s pretty shocking.

While bacteria are obviously different to a virus, they can also be spread when people touch the same surfaces and then their face, or by droplets produced when coughing or sneezing.

 

Don’t swear off the gym entirely

It’s not all bad news — another study looked at the common cold virus on surfaces in the gym. While it was found on around two-thirds of surfaces, it also began to disappear within minutes in 50% humidity environments (similar to the gym), meaning your chances of catching it are pretty low unless your immune system is already compromised.3

It’s also worth remembering that our bodies live quite happily side by side with microorganisms all the time, usually with few negative implications to our health. Just because you come into contact with it, doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get ill, but keeping the gym equipment clean will definitely help with this.

 

Take home message

It’s pretty simple — if you’re feeling under the weather, then give the gym a few days off and save your fellow gym buddies. While you can’t completely avoid illness wherever you go, wiping down gym surfaces before and after you use them and washing your hands is an easy way to reduce the risk of spreading disease.

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1. Dalman, M., Bhatta, S., Nagajothi, N., Thapaliya, D., Olson, H., Naimi, H. M., & Smith, T. C. (2019). Characterizing the molecular epidemiology of Staphylococcus aureus across and within fitness facility typesBMC infectious diseases19(1), 1-10.

2. Sattar, S. A., Karim, Y. G., Springthorpe, V. S., & Johnson-Lussenburg, C. M. (1987). Survival of human rhinovirus type 14 dried onto nonporous inanimate surfaces: effect of relative humidity and suspending mediumCanadian journal of microbiology33(9), 802-806.



Evangeline Howarth

Evangeline Howarth

Writer and expert

Evangeline has taken part in competitive sports since a young age. As a qualified RYA Dinghy Instructor, she understands the importance of proper nutrition for fuelling extreme and endurance sports, especially due to her experience in Team GBR Squads and captaining and coaching her University first team.

In her spare time, Evangeline loves running – especially marathons. On the weekends, you’ll find her taking on water sports or hiking up a hill. Her favourite evenings are spent taking on a HIIT session or squats in the gym before digging into some spicy food and a ton of vegetables – yum!

Find out more about Evie's experience here.


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