Most gym-goers know to wipe down the treadmill after using it, but that’s not the only spot germs lurk. Here are five ways to lower your risk of picking up germs during your gym visit:
1. Bring your own workout mat
When using a communal mat during yoga or barefoot workout routines, there is, once again, a risk of contracting a fungal infection. The best option is to bring your own yoga or workout mat and make sure to clean it regularly. If you’re going to use a mat provided by the gym, sanitize it with an antibacterial wipe or hand gel and place a clean towel on top of it. Alternatively, you can purchase non-slip socks or shoes specifically designed for yoga so you don’t have to work out with bare feet.
2. Wear flip-flops in the shower
Floors in the gym’s shower stalls are germ central. If you’re standing in the stall barefoot and have even the smallest cut in your skin, you can easily introduce a fungus and end up with an infection such as athlete’s foot. Wear flip-flops in the shower so your feet are never in direct contact with the floor. That goes for the floors in the changeroom and sauna, too, since a fungal infection can happen anywhere when you’re barefoot.
3. Drink water from a reusable bottle
Norovirus is a highly contagious intestinal virus that can easily be spread via a communal water fountain. Fellow gym-goers might hit the fountain’s spout with their mouths – and some may even spit in it. Bringing a reusable water bottle (preferably that you’ve filled at home) is a practical solution that keeps you from having to use the public fountain. Also be wary of constantly opening and closing the bottle – you’ll transfer germs from your hands to the bottle, and ultimately, your mouth. Choose a bottle that has a spout you can easily pull open with your mouth instead of your hands.
4. Regularly disinfect your gym bag
Your gym bag is an item you likely toss around in various places – your car, the change room, or even the floor of a public washroom – without giving it a second thought. Unfortunately, that means you’re increasing your risk of coming into contact with germs. Keep a bottle of disinfectant spray in your car or gym bag that you can use to spritz the bag’s surface before bringing it into the house.
5. Spray down machines (cardio and strength) even if they don’t “look” sweaty.
Most gyms have disinfectant available at points throughout the gym. Use it, says Adams. For best results, spray disinfectant directly on equipment, not on towels. And to make sure it kills the germs, let it sit on the surface for a couple of minutes before wiping it down with a clean cloth.