How to Improve Your Gym Hygiene
They say that cleanliness is next to godliness. And it's true: if you want to be a god in the gym, you need to maintain more than just your strength and endurance — you also need to maintain a smart and savvy gym hygiene routine. It's about more than just keeping sweaty smells at bay (although that's important, too). Gym hygiene is a core part of gym etiquette, and hygiene is also a key way to keep your workout regimen from being sabotaged by a wayward germ or virus.
How the Pandemic Altered Gym Life
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the fitness industry, from nationwide gym closures to influencing fitness trends and workout preferences.
The pandemic also shifted how fitness enthusiasts view the importance of gym hygiene and cleanliness and our expectations about how gyms and studios approach disinfection and sanitization. For example, MindBody Business conducted a study that found that more than 9 out of 10 gym-goers ranked rigorous cleaning guidelines as their number-one concern when deciding whether to go to a specific gym or not.
But improving your gym hygiene is about more than just avoiding the infamous coronavirus. It's so much, much bigger than that.
Why Proper Gym Hygiene is So Important
What's dirtier: A public bathroom's toilet seat or your gym? The answer may surprise you.
According to one estimate, the dumbbells, barbells, and other free weights at your gym have 362 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Meanwhile, treadmills were home to 74 times more bacteria than a water tap. All those germs and bacteria spell trouble.
1. Reduce Your Risk of Illness
The gym is a hotbed for getting sick. It's often warm and humid — the perfect environment in which viruses flourish — and packed with numerous disease carriers (i.e., you and the other gym goers) who are constantly touching every surface. And these surfaces are covered in illness-causing germs.
One study found that 73% of weight equipment (and 63% of all general gym equipment) was contaminated with the rhinovirus (the culprit behind the common cold).
Viruses like the cold and flu can live on these surfaces for days on end. Since we unconsciously touch our faces as often as 23 times an hour, it's easy to fall ill with the cold and flu (or worse) if we don't maintain proper gym hygiene.
2. Reduce Your Risk of Infections
Skin infections aren't just unsightly or uncomfortable, but they can also pose a serious risk to your health. And all that close contact with other gym-goers through shared workout equipment, locker rooms, and bathrooms can leave you prone to these infections if you aren't taking the right approach to gym hygiene.
Staphylococcus, the bacteria that causes staph infections, is the most common infectious bacteria found in gyms and fitness centers. Some forms of staph are increasingly resistant to antibiotics and can lead to serious blood infections or even death.
Other infections prevalent in gyms include ringworm, jock itch (tinea cruris), athlete's foot (tinea pedis), and even warts (the human papillomavirus, which causes plantar warts, thrives in damp showers and humid bathrooms).
3. Meet Your Social Expectations
Don't be that person in the gym that people flee from when they see you on an aerobic machine or leaving the weight room. No one wants to work out in your left-behind puddle of perspiration or smell you long after you've left the premises. In fact, how you smell is one of the most powerful social cues through which others perceive you.
5 Gym Hygiene Tips to Keep You and Others Safe
Protect your health (and your social reputation) with these simple and effective gym hygiene strategies.
1. Carry an Anti-Bacterial Spray
If your gym doesn't offer its own anti-bacterial spray (many have started to do so since the pandemic), you can find sanitizing sprays for sale at online retailers and at local fitness stores or drugstores. Spritz in onto any surfaces you'll be touching on exercise equipment before you settle into your workout to help eradicate the nasty "bugs" left behind by the previous user.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends using a spray that contains 70% isopropyl alcohol, which kills most bacteria and viruses without the health side effects of commercial-level industry cleaners.
2. Always Wipe Down Machines
Be a good neighbor by wiping down equipment after you've used it. Not only does that help prevent the spread of any illnesses or infections that you may have, but it also gets rid of the oil, dirt, and dead skin cells you've left behind. This is also especially key if you're someone who sweats heavily!
Use the wipes or paper towels provided by your gym, or pack a few clean hand towels from home. Keep in mind that using a dirty rag over and over defeats the purpose — if packing your own towels, use a fresh one every couple of machines/weight benches.
3. Bring Flip Flops to the Showers
The floor of your locker room is a breeding ground for infectious diseases and fungi, and that doesn't even include the gross statistic where 2 out of 3 people say they regularly pee in the shower.
It's no wonder that going barefoot in the gym shower often leads to itchy, red, cracking feet (i.e., athlete's foot) or worse.
Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center recommends always wearing flip-flops or water shoes in public showers, and also suggests that you:
- Keep your showers as short as possible
- Wash your feet well with soap and water
- Dry off immediately (damp feet are more susceptible to infections from the bacteria and fungi you just exposed them to)
4. Don’t Touch Your Face
As noted previously, we touch our faces a surprising amount per hour — often without thinking. This is often exacerbated when our faces are tickled or irritated by the sweat generated by our workout. That immediately transfers the germs on our hands to our eyes, ears, and nose, where they're more easily transported into your body.
Be more conscious of how often you're wiping your face and try to limit this action. You can further reduce your health risks by:
- Wearing a sweatband to keep perspiration and hair out of your eyes and face
- Using a face mask to naturally prevent yourself from touching your mouth or nose
5. Wash Your Hands
Approximately 1 in 4 gym-goers admit to not washing their hands after using the gym bathroom.
Wash your hands well both before and after your workout, as well as after you'd hit the bathroom:
- Lather up with soap for at least 15 seconds (washing your hands for this duration removes 90% of bacteria; washing your hands for 30 seconds eliminates 99.9% of bacteria)
- Don't forget to wash in between your fingers and under your nails
- Rinse well, then dry thoroughly
Now that you've spruced up your gym hygiene routine, further reduce your infection and illness risks with a stronger immune system. At Tiger Fitness, you'll find best-selling immunity-boosting supplements like our popular all-in-one Immunity Stack. While even the best gym etiquette and gym hygiene can't eliminate all bacteria and viruses from the gym equipment we use, we can give our bodies the nutrients it needs to counter these bacteria and viruses when we face them.