It can be extremely difficult (even for those that try) for large public gyms and corporate facilities to keep their equipment and amenities as clean as possible. Although it can be true that exposure to certain bacteria and viruses can help to strengthen antibodies; giving your immune system a workout while trying to see real results in the gym is bad on multiple fronts. First; your body grows while resting. To put it simply-your body is not really resting if it is busy fighting off bacterial or viral infections picked up from your favorite local gym. Second; energy levels that are required to produce intense, effective workouts cannot be maintained during periods of illness or infection. Even “the sniffles”; or a cold that seems to linger a bit too long can negatively impact your workout. And it is often the case that we do not attribute these prolonged symptoms to gym exposure, but it should seriously be considered by those who spend any time in a large or public facility.

The facts are that in a place with so many different people, all doing a variety of strenuous activities to produce sweat and exert energy, there is going to be an enormous germ count. If every inch of a facility is not properly cleaned on a regular basis then germs will multiply. The same goes for shoes, gym bags, water bottles, phones, headphones, car keys, and just about everything else that enters the gym. And there is zero chance of everyone entering that building that day keeping the beforementioned items regularly sanitized and washed. Many times, gym-goers are not coming from cleaning themselves and their gym equipment/belongings. How many times have you said, “No, Ill shower after the gym.” Individuals tend to be dirty when they arrive at the gym. They arrive after working a shift or a long day of producing germs and they use the same dirty equipment (gloves, phone, headphones, shoes, favorite shirt, etc.) that they used the day before. The compound effect that is had on these germy items is what produces strains of germs and bacteria that end up getting gym-goers sick.

I recently read a few articles and journals on the many different types of germs that live at gyms, as well as the surfaces that are the biggest “breeding grounds” for germs and I would like to share some of this information with the hope that it keeps people both hygienic and healthy during the upcoming holiday season. Other than influenza, you can find staphylococcus (staph infection), streptococcus (strep throat), E. coli, and more at the big box gyms. And although it is true that these germs can be potentially found anywhere that people are, the types machines and equipment, combined with the amount of different people that are using them on daily basis, combined with existing germs that might be on a gym patron and/or their personal effect; you have a trifecta for the growth and spread of the germs mentioned as well as others.

In terms of germ “hot zones” there are many, but germs survive best on flat surfaces such as free weights, benches and bars. Same is true for the highly frequented cardio machines that many clean poorly or not at all. While the cardio machines and strength machines sometimes receive a good scrub, good luck finding a large pubic gym that frequently sanitizes (individually) the dumbbells, bumper and plate weights enough to keep you from getting an infection. In conclusion, be careful of spreading germs and be careful to properly clean your gym equipment as you use it. Also, be sure to clean yourself! Poor hygiene is unacceptable and directly combats the hard work of your training. So, be wary; As winter arrives many will be moving their workouts entirely indoors into big gyms and will be joined by seemingly the entire world, many of who have not showered yet today!