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Health Team

Gym germs could turn workouts into health risk

Posted February 9

People go to the gym stay healthy, but nasty germs in the gym may actually be a health concern.

“You know, I think people understand that you can pick up a cold or a flu at the gym, but really some of the most common things that you pick up are skin infections,” said Teresa Carr with Consumer Reports.

Germs that cause skin infections can thrive in the sweat that’s left on exercise equipment and towels as well as in the warm, moist areas like pool decks.

“Staph infections such as MRSA can be a little more worrisome because they’re resistant to some antibiotics and so they’re a bit harder to treat. But, those infections as well as really common infections such as plantar warts and athlete’s foot and jock itch can all typically be prevented,” Carr said.

Experts with Consumer Reports said common sense strategies can help keep people healthy while working out.

Keeping cuts covered is the best way to keep germs out. Experts advise that people spread a towel over weight machines and always wear flip flops in wet areas. People should also bring an exercise mat from home and disinfect it regularly because chances are the ones at the gym are not thoroughly cleaned between classes.

“And you know, some germs can live for days on those mats, as well as other surfaces in the gym such as weight machines and locker room benches,” Carr said.

People should practice good hygiene by wiping down equipment, washing their hands after a workout and showering after a swim. Experts also advise regularly washing gear worn to the gym.

Consumer Reports also suggests taking a good look around a gym before joining. Check to see if the equipment is well maintained, if the bathrooms and locker rooms are kept clean and stocked with liquid soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer. All can be indications of how clean a health club is.

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