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What Can You Do to Improve Gym Hygiene?

  • 6 min read


by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

I think it’s fair to say that if you’re reading this, the gym is your sanctuary, and you take gym hygiene seriously. After all, you don’t want to be labeled as “that guy” in the gym.

For most of us, the gym is like our second home. It’s a place where we work hard to keep our bodies healthy and strong. We go there to reduce stress, build muscle, and burn body fat. But did you know that gyms can also be a breeding ground for germs?

With all the sweating and warmth, it’s the perfect environment for bacteria and viruses to thrive. But don’t worry! We can take some easy steps to keep ourselves safe and healthy while we work out.

In this article, we will dive deeper and learn some ways you can improve gym hygiene and encourage others to do the same.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before starting any exercise program, changing your daily nutrition, or adding any supplements to your regimen.

The Importance of Proper Gym Hygiene

Recent studies have revealed alarming levels of bacteria in gym environments, surpassing even those found in public bathrooms.

Dumbbells and free weights carry 362 times more bacteria than toilet seats, while treadmills harbor 74 times more bacteria than water taps. That’s absolutely disgusting when you think about it.

These findings highlight the urgent need for improved gym hygiene practices to mitigate the risk of illnesses and infections.

Research indicates that weight equipment, in particular, is often contaminated with the rhinovirus, a common cause of the cold. Failure to uphold proper hygiene standards increases susceptibility to various infections, including staphylococcus, ringworm, and athlete’s foot. All things that you would probably want to stay away from unless you enjoy being sick or suffering from random medical conditions.

8 Ways to Improve Gym Hygiene

Below are eight ways you can improve gym hygiene for better health and overall safety.

1.     Wash your gym clothes regularly

Sweaty gym clothes can hold onto odors, especially if they’re made of stretchy materials like Lycra. It’s best to change out of your gym clothes right after your workout, take a good shower, and wash your clothes as soon as you can. This way, you’ll keep those nasty smells at bay and stay fresh and clean for your next gym session.

2.     Use your own mat for floor exercises

For yoga enthusiasts, the exercise mat is their most essential accessory. Whether you’re placing your hands on it or lying face down, having your own mat ensures cleanliness and proper gym hygiene. Make it a habit to regularly wipe down your mat to remove dirt and bacteria, keeping your yoga practice safe and germ-free.

3.     Bring a towel with you

You’re not alone in your workout routine on the elliptical or stationary bike. Before you, others have sweated it out, leaving behind traces of their workout. Did they sanitize the equipment afterward? We can only hope. People using the equipment before you may have touched their faces or neglected to wash their hands after using the restroom.

If you’re not grossed out after hearing all that, we need to check your pulse. So, it should go without saying, but it’s crucial to always wipe down equipment before your workout as well as after. This simple step can reduce the risk of encountering gym bacteria and germs during your exercise session.

4.     Feet first

The wet, humid conditions in shower areas and locker rooms can harbor various bacteria and fungi. Protect your feet from fungal infections and potential viruses like warts by wearing shower flip-flops for added gym hygiene.

Afterward, ensure that you thoroughly wash and dry your feet, paying extra attention to the spaces between your toes. If you’re susceptible to athlete’s foot, consider using an anti-fungal powder for added protection.

5.     Change to fresh clothes post-workout

After an intense workout session, both you and your clothing are likely to be damp, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. Delaying changing out of sweaty clothes can lead to discomfort, itching, and unpleasant odors.

It’s essential to prioritize changing into fresh underwear and clothing promptly to improve gym hygiene, even if you’re unable to take a shower immediately. This simple step not only benefits you but also promotes healthy gym hygiene for others.

6.     Be skin conscious

For any break in your skin, whether it’s a cut, scrape, or infection, it’s crucial to cover it with a waterproof bandage to prevent exposure to germs and bacteria. Additionally, avoid using communal facilities like whirlpools and other common areas until the wound has fully healed to minimize the risk of infection spreading.

7.     Wash your gym kit

Proper gym hygiene means you should make sure to wash your gym attire immediately after use, as bacteria thrive in sweaty clothing. Avoid leaving your gear withering in your bag for days, as this creates an ideal breeding ground for germs.

Keep your gym bag safe from contamination by placing used items, including shoes, in a plastic bag. Remember to wipe down personal equipment like yoga mats and weight machines right after use and store any wet personal equipment or clothing in a dry, well-ventilated area to prevent bacterial growth.

8.     Take a rest day

If you’re feeling under the weather with a cold, it’s best to take a day off from the gym to avoid spreading germs to others. Being ill not only increases the risk of transmitting germs but also makes you more vulnerable to catching other bacteria and viruses.

Furthermore, hitting a workout when you’re sick further beats down your immune system while it’s trying to beat whatever bug you may have caught. So, take some time off to rest and recover fully.