Sports Law • Risk Management

Protecting Yourself from Germs in the Gym

Have you ever gone to the gym for a work out, hoping that you could sweat out a virus? Or, maybe you thought that you might be getting sick, but you felt good enough for a work out. Gyms are terrific places to spread germs of all types, so it is a good idea for your own risk management to be aware of breeding grounds for germs.

Starting with the locker rooms, make sure that you are wearing shower shoes and that you do not step onto the floor with your bare feet, so as to avoid fungus. Benches and stools in the gyms are likely not sanitized and so make sure that if you sit down on them that there is at least a towel between the seat and your body. Bacteria may be growing in refillable soap, shampoo, conditioner and other amenity bottles that are constantly being refilled. It may be a good idea to bring your own. Make sure you cover any open cuts or sores so that you do not contract MRSA. Consider bringing your own towel, rather than using questionably laundered gym provided towels. Do not share towels with anyone.

Most gyms have rules about wiping down cardio equipment. Even though someone uses a paper towel to wipe up visible sweat after their work out, this doesn’t mean that the equipment is clean. Other machines and free weights are also not properly cleaned between uses. It makes sense to use disinfectant wipes where reasonable. At the very least, avoid touching your face while working out and wash your hands thoroughly after using the equipment. Water fountains may also harbor germs and so it makes sense to bring your own bottled water or sports drinks.

Fitness classes can also be a source of germs, with mats, free weights and other equipment that are seldom cleaned. Avoid the risk by bringing your own mat, and any other portable equipment.

If everyone washes their hands, stays home when sick, and cleans equipment after use, the gym environment will be much healthier. Since that is unlikely to happen, it is best to exercise reasonable precautions.