A while ago I wrote an article outlining sixteen reasons to own your own treadmill. I must admit I may have overlooked the most important reason of all: the risk of disease and infection. WebMD recently had an article discussing the risks of going to the local gym.
Germs and bacteria are found everywhere, including gyms. The last thing you want when you're trying to be healthy is to get sick because of your health club.
Fungi, bacteria, and viruses are common in wet areas such as showers and swimming pool decks, Pire says. Sweat left to dry on equipment is also a breeding ground for bacteria.
Bacteria can also thrive on used towels on locker room floors, weights, sweaty cardio machines, and benches that members sit on between workouts, says Matt Carlen, director of LifeBridge Health and Fitness in Baltimore.
Let us not forget the increased risk of catching a cold, the flu, or any other communicable disease just by being in close proximity of others who are infected, not to mention using equipment and facilities that they hav come in contact with. With the cold and flu season rapidly approaching this is definitely something to consider seriously.
Avoiding the Risk
Obviously, the easiest way to avoid these problems is to purchase your own treadmill or elliptical and work out at home.
However, if you must go to a gym or health club because you want access to a swimming pool, hot tub, or other exercise equipment, keep these tips in mind.
If your gym has a swimming pool or hot tub, ask the staff how often they are cleaned and how often the chemical balance is checked, suggests Henry Williford, EdD, FACSM, professor of physical education and exercise science at Auburn University and a spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine.
Pire recommends wearing "shower shoes" or flip-flops to help minimize your chances of getting athlete's foot, toenail fungus, and viral or bacterial infections.
Wash your hands frequently, wipe down the equipment before and after you work out, and sit on a towel when in the sauna or on benches, McMillan says.
All gyms should have an automatic sanitizer dispenser, Carlen says. "Make sure you use it as much as you can," he says. (It doesn't hurt to bring your own hand sanitizer with you, as well.) With cold and flu season upon us, if you're sick with a cold or flu, stay home until you've been free of fever for at least a day, so you don't spread your germs.