Staying Healthy at your Gym

By: proctor - January 26, 2008
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) published an article filled with tips on how to stay healthy at your gym. It stated a lot of things I do already, but it really helped to hear it from them because I sometimes wondered if I was overdoing it by washing my hands often and using the anti-bacterial wipes they provide every time I use cardio equipment. Turns out, those are on the list of "To Do's" as are many other sensible practices. Below are the highlights from their "ACE: Fitness Matters" January/February publication. The article was written by Dr. Bryant who can be contacted at acepubs@acefitness.org.

There is a growing concern about the bacteria MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) in the community, specifically in health clubs. It has been observed in increasing numbers of high school and collegiate athletes. MRSA is a variant of the common staph bacteria, and it is resistant to most common antibiotics which makes it hard to treat. Healthcare experts cite close physical contact (direct skin-to-skin) and the sharing of personal items and equipment as the primary reasons for the increasing number of MRSA outbreaks that have occurred in recent years.

Symptoms include a red, swollen, and painful area on the skin that is often warm to the touch, fever, headache, chills, rash, muscle aches and pains, and fatigue. Some areas may drain and wil need prompt medical attention. The most effective way to guard against contracting a MRSA infection, as well as other germs, fungus, and virus more likely to be lurking in health clubs, is to practice good hygiene. The following are good practices to follow:

DO this:

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after workouts; this is an easy-to-do step that is arguably the best defense against becoming infected.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer...this is an easy-to-do step that is arguably the best defense against becoming infected.

Keep all cuts, scrapes and wounds clean and covered with an appropriate bandage.

Avoid all contact with the wounds or bandages of other individuals.

Do not share personal items such as razors or towels.

Clean all equipment contact surfaces (pads, handles, and grips) with disinfectant sprays or wipes before and after use.

Bring a towel to use as a barrier between your skin and any contact surface on shared equipment. Always place the same side of the towel face down on the contact surface of the equipment. Also, use a different towel to wipe sweat off your body.

When showering, use liquid soap dispensers instead of bar soap.

Wear flip-flops in the locker room, shower, and sauna.

Sit on a towel in the locker room or sauna to avoid direct contact with the benches.

Wash and dry your feet completely after showering.

Cover any exercise mat you use with a clean towel or bring your own mat to use.

Wear workout gloves to provide a barrier between our hands and the handrails and grips on cardio and strength equipment.

Never touch your eyes, nose, mouth, or face during a workout.

Make sure the health club is clean and well-ventilated. Ask the staff to outline the facility's cleaning and disinfecting procedures and policies.

Avoid exercising at the gym when you're sick to prevent spreading your germs to other members.

DON'T let a fear of germs and possible infections become an excuse to not exercise. Instead, practice good hygiene and common sense to avoid increasing your risk of picking up a bug or illness. After all, numerous studies show that regular exercise and proper nutrition boost your immune system to help you better fight infections and other illnesses.

About the Submitter


I have been an ACE certified personal trainer since 2000 who has trained over 3000 hours. I specialize in pre- and post-natal fitness, stretching, running, and weight loss. Yoga is also a passion for me and a way of life. I received my Yoga Alliance Teacher Certification in India and love to share the calmness, strength, and openness that yoga offers to people of all ages and abilities.

Public Comments

  • By: annbarr

    Thursday, February 28, 2008 - 2:08am

    Keep a pack of Lavender Yoga Wipes (for your mat) on hand, lavender has NATURAL antiseptic properties! Grab a pack on-line to throw in your gym bag or locker!

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