We’re halfway through the year, and if you’re still sticking to your health resolutions and hitting the gym on the reg, consider this a virtual pat on the (toned, muscular) back! Making the time for workouts is no easy feat, and if fitness sessions are now showing up regularly on your handy-dandy desk calendar, you’ve already won a major battle! Go you! But if you’re hurrying through your gym visits to make the scheduling work and breezing past the free sanitizer wipes that your facility probably offers (yes, we’ve all done it), you may be creating an entirely new set of health problems for yourself.
We really do hate to be the messenger on this one, but gyms are not exactly the most hygienic places on the planet — and while we know you’re in a rush to finish up your workout and move on to the next part of your day, a few extra minutes may go a long way in keeping your sweat sesh as sanitary as possible. Thanks to Becca Napelbaum, cleaning expert at the on-demand home services app Handy, we have the inside scoop on the six germiest parts of any gym or fitness routine — along with tips on how to deal with the unwanted bacteria you’ll find there. Keep scrolling for all the details!
1. Cardio Equipment: Working up a good sweat while on the treadmill, elliptical, or spin bike is a sign of an amazing workout, but when multiple people are sweating on the same machine, the results can be less than… clean. Be an upstanding gym citizen by practicing good cardio hygiene. “It’s every individual’s responsibility to wipe down the equipment with a clean, dry towel after every use, but this doesn’t always happen,” Napelbaum says. “Because of this, make sure that you wipe it down before you use it, as well as after.” If you want to be an overachiever, consider tossing a small pack of antibacterial wipes into your workout bag, and use these for the wipe down.
2. Weights: Weights are touched by many hands and have a tendency to accumulate dust, which can irritate your lungs when you work out, so don’t forget to wipe them down! A clean towel or antibacterial wipe is an easy solution for the gym, and if you have a set of weights at home, you can try for a deeper clean once a month by scrubbing each part in soapy water. A recent study by FitRated estimates that free weights have 362 times more bacteria than a toilet (yuck).
3. Mats: We like to think that gyms and other fitness studios have the time to sanitize yoga mats between classes, but since many studios are busy and understaffed, you can never be totally sure. Napelbaum suggests using your own mat whenever possible (even though it can be a pain to drag it back and forth to class), and cleaning it once a month. The best way to clean a smelly mat — whether it belongs to the gym or you decide to BYO — is with a natural solution of water and vinegar.
4. Water Fountains: If you’re concerned about hygiene, bringing your own water bottle is really the only option. “The water fountains at the gym are one of the most germ-ridden spots, as people’s mouths regularly come into contact with the faucet and… the mouthpiece of their water bottle often will too,” Napelbaum says. Even your own personal water bottle requires a little TLC! Napelbaum suggests cleaning bottles after every use.
5. Headphones: “You might not even think about your headphones when you consider your gym equipment, but most of us listen to music when working out,” Napelbaum says. “Headphones — particularly in-ear ones — are a hotbed for germs, as they increase the heat in the ear canal. Combine that with a workout and the bacteria will quickly multiply.” To correct this problem, first use a Q-tip to brush off the metal part of the headphones, then use a cloth dipped in a mixture of soap and warm water to wipe off the rest of your buds.
6. Locker Room Floors: According to Napelbaum, the humid, crowded conditions of most gym locker rooms create somewhat of a breeding ground for germs. Luckily, there’s a pretty easy fix. We’re bringing shower shoes back! Break out a pair of flip-flops, and think of it as a #TBT to your summer camp days.
How do you look out for germs at the gym? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)