Disclaimer*: The articles shared under 'Your Voice' section are sent to us by contributors and we neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of any facts stated below. Parhlo will not be liable for any false, inaccurate, inappropriate or incomplete information presented on the website. Read our disclaimer.
Working out regularly is probably one of the best habits you could incorporate into your lifestyle. I mean, there could be nothing wrong or bad about going to the gym and working up a sweat, right? Well, what if I told you your gym could be harboring microorganisms that could possibly land you in the hospital or at least in bed and ironically do you more harm than good? Well, you’d have another excuse to skip the gym, won’t you? However, there’s no argument that gyms and fitness centers provide an ideal environment for a lot of germs to reproduce in.
The combination of body heat shared equipment and close contact is everything an infectious agent could ask for to thrive and spread disease. Let’s take a look at the 4 most common germs you may be coming in contact with every day you clang some iron. Not only that, I’ll also show you the best way to combat these tiny critters to make sure you stay protected every single day. Except for your rest day, of course!
1. Staphylococcus Aureus/MRSA
Claim to Fame: This bacteria used to be confined to hospitals, but can now be found pretty much anywhere in the community. It mainly causes skin and respiratory tract infections, and truth be told, almost all of us have this bacteria on our skin or in our noses. It won’t do anything, though, unless our skin is ruptured and/or our immunity is low. Yes, this means a small cut on our skin can easily lead to a staph infection, causing anything from a mild, acne-like breakout to severe, pus-filled boils. Rarely, a staph infection could develop into cellulitis, a potentially lethal skin infection.
An even more dangerous ( and rare) strain of this bacteria is Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA for short. This strain is resistant to a lot of antibiotics, and requires a more rigorous treatment plan should you be infected.
Favorite Areas In The Gym: Staph aureus can pretty much be present on anything that comes in contacts with human skin, such as barbells, dumbbells, gym towels and treadmill handrails.
Prevention Techniques: Make sure any open injury to the skin, be it a small paper cut, is well covered or ideally healed before you start touching equipment. Any such injury acquired at the gym should be immediately cleaned under running water and promptly covered using a sterile bandage/gauze. Make sure you wash your hands and face as soon as your finish your workout, especially if you are one of the people who consume their post workout calories in the gym. Showers are an absolute must after every gym session.
Treatment: Should you get infected, antibiotics are what your doctor will put you on, depending on the strain you are infected with.
Claim to Fame: Escherichia coli is a bacteria that lives in our digestive system, where it’s one of the good guys. However, certain strains can cause intestinal infection, and these are ones we need to watch out for. An E.coli infection of the digestive system causes undesirable symptoms, which include stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, and fatigue. E.coli are notorious for causing urinary tract infections in women.
Favorite Areas in the Gym: E.coli mainly spreads through contaminated food and water, which means any edible item, water bottles, and water filters can harbor the bacteria. Gym saunas and toilets are a definite hot spot, as are people who don’t wash their hands properly after using the toilet. E Coli is found in fecal matter, which means that your gym shoes and pretty much any equipment that touches the floor could be tainted with this germ. Gym towels quickly pick up this partiular germ, which is why they should be washed regularly.
Prevention Techniques: The best way to prevent an E.coli infection is to maintain good personal hygiene and make sure the contents of your gym bag are clean and regularly washed/disinfected. Water bottles should be washed at least once a day. Eating anything in the gym should be avoided. Towels (preferably white) must be washed using a sanitizing solution made of one part bleach and nine parts water.
Treatment: An E.coli infection will run its course, so it’s best to avoid working out during the time you have the symptoms, not only for your own sake but also for others who may be exposed to the germ you are shedding in your stool. Diarrhea and vomiting lead to dehydration, which should be taken care of by ensuring you consume a sufficient amount of water and electrolytes.
Taking over the counter medication for fever and pain is a good idea, but medication for diarrhea should be avoided. These drugs can slow down the body’s digestive system, making it difficult for your body to eliminate the toxins and prolonging the infection and symptoms. UTI’s caused by E.coli require a course of antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.
Claim to Fame: Known to cause “the flu”, this highly contagious virus causes influenza, characterized by a high fever, runny nose, sore throat and muscle pains. Almost everybody has suffered from this at some point in their lives, so we all know how much of a bother those symptoms can be.
Favorite Areas In The Gym: An infected person releases this virus into the air every time he/she sneezes or coughs, so there’s no one corner of the gym you can pinpoint this germ in.Equipment that has been contaminated with droplets from an infected person’s coughing can readily transmit this virus to the next person using it.
Prevention Techniques: Good personal health and hygiene habits, especially not touching your mouth, nose or eyes during the time you are working out, frequent hand washing, proper covering of coughs and sneezes, and not going to the gym if you have the flu yourself, go a long way in ensuring you and your fellow gym members stay healthy.
Treatment: The flu will run its course, but its symptoms can be relieved by over the counter drugs.
Claim to Fame: These yeast like fungi are the most common cause of fungal infections worldwide. They reside on our skin, in our nose and our stomach. Overgrowth of any of these peaceful colonies leads to infection, causing anything from ringworm(athlete’s foot, jock itch) to yeast infection in women. These fungi mainly cause skin infections.
Favorite Areas In The Gym: Anything that is moist and warm provides an ideal place for fungus to grow. In the gym, saunas, locker rooms, and toilets are hot spots (literally) that you could pick up an itchy fungal infection in.
Prevention Techniques: Avoiding humidity in the gym seems like an oxymoron, which is why personal hygiene is once more your go to preventive measure against Candida or any type of fungus. However, avoiding using the toilet in the gym is a good idea, as is skipping a sweat session in a dirty sauna room. Walking barefoot in the gym is the easiest way to get athlete’s foot, but keeping your feet cramped in humid footwear for long periods of time isn’t a good idea either.
Treatment: Mild fungal infections respond well to anti-fungal creams. In the case of a more severe infection, a doctor will prescribe you with the appropriate antibiotics.
These germs may be spending more time on fitness equipment than you do, but it does not mean that you should tear up your gym membership card in fear of contracting an infection. Good personal hygiene can never be stressed enough to stay healthy, and neither can a good, balanced diet. A good diet and cleanliness ultimately lead to a good, strong immunity, which you need to make sure none of the germs mentioned above can ever get in between you and your fitness goals.