Just look at that little germ just waiting to attach itself to somewhere on your skin or inside your mucous membranes. Next stop? Your lungs!
It’s called the coronavirus because of the crown-shaped prongs that project out of the virus’ body (corona = crown). This is not just to make it look space-age and scary: those prongs do an amazing job of sticking to anything with which the virus comes into contact. If you’ve ever had a burr stuck to your sneaker laces and struggled to disentangle it, imagine your body having to do that with the coronavirus.
It’s not only the coronavirus that you need to be super-cautious about coming into contact with this winter when you go to the gym. Gyms don’t want you to know, but they are a hotbed of infection. There used to be a joke doing the rounds when gym memberships really took off in the 90s: Yuppies worked at the stock exchange during the day, and then went to the virus exchange to workout in the evenings! They were, of course, referring to gyms!
Even the media managed to have a laugh at our determination to get a gym membership over the last three decades. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61iKnKtwpUM
According to a 2019 survey of 1,000 regular gym-goers, the following cleanliness glitches were continually observed at gyms across the board:
· Bathroom users not washing their hands and then going on to use gym equipment
· Over one third of equipment users not wiping down after themselves (35% men, 25% women)
· Urination in the showers
· Expectoration and blowing noses into hands in the basin sinks
· Sitting naked on public seating in the changing rooms
Those facts are enough to make any germaphobe run for the nearest exit. That’s an understandable reaction, but if you’re locked into a gym membership for another year, here are some of the sanitary precautions you can take when at the gym.
Jock Itch, Ring Worm, Athletes Foot
An irritating group of fungi – dermatophytes – cause these infections, and they are all acquired in public locker rooms and changing rooms. Dermatophytes simply adore the moist and continuously wet environments supplied by gym bathrooms.
Fight Back: Change your clothes the minute you get home from the gym. Air out or wash your towels every day. Don’t forget to replace your socks and shoes, giving one pair a chance to dry out while wearing the other pair.
If you are at a gym that promotes the use of their jacuzzi and steam room, remember that these are not the only places where these opportunistic staph germs can multiply. They also love breeding here:
· Gym machines
· Free weights
· Door handles
Fight Back: Protect yourself from taking a staph infection home with you by maintaining the following vigilant practices:
· Wipe down everything with antibacterial spray before touching it
· Use your own towel as a barrier
· Use your towel to wipe your face at all times, never use your hands
Extra countermeasures include covering any open lesions (paper cuts, raised cuticles, etc.) you have with waterproof plasters before starting your workout and having a bath or shower with antibacterial soap as soon after you have finished exercising as possible.
Never walk anywhere in a gym without jandles or gym shoes. Make sure they are high-quality jandles that can handle a variety of surfaces without slipping or tripping you up. Why is this? Because of plantar warts, aka HPV, and mat herpes, aka HSV1.
Herpes Simplex Virus 1 is a particularly nasty little critter. It can attach itself to anyone who comes into contact with the carrier, or the surface the carrier has touched.
Fight Back: Avoid sharing equipment or surfaces, and if you can’t do that, then make sure you wash and wipe the surface with a strong cleaning solution before use. You can also cover it with a clean towel. Remember to have a shower after finishing your workout.
With the Human Papillomavirus, or warts, simple hygiene rules such as never touching your face, never walking barefoot, and washing and wiping surfaces should be enough to prevent contamination.
Airborne respiratory viruses, like the coronavirus, are a big concern at gyms.
The problem with gyms is that they are less like gyms and more like public meeting places. In fact, a study commissioned by Kettler Sport showed that a staggering 50% of gym goers attend gym to meet people, hook up, or hang with friends. Almost a third of the 2,000 respondents said they hardly ever broke a sweat at gym, preferring activities where they could look attractive, like yoga or swimming.
The bottom line is that there is very little you can do to stop someone who is sick from going to the gym. An instructor might be able to refuse them a place in their class, but anyone who is coughing and sneezing has the same right to use the equipment and changing rooms as a healthy person.
Fight Back: The best thing to do is remain vigilant, and keep your eyes peeled for anyone who is actively shedding germs. Avoid the areas they use for at least half an hour, wipe down the equipment, and never touch your face.
· Get a flu shot
· Practice good hand hygiene
· Don’t use public access items
If all of this sounds like you would like to join the other 80% of people with gym memberships, and just stop going to the gym forever, then what’s the alternative?
This is where the future of exercise lies: taking control of your fitness in your own hands and choosing where you do it, when you do it, and also with whom.
If you want to ensure the only thing you catch this winter is the latest binge-worthy series on your streaming channel, then think about setting up a small area in your home where you can exercise. It’s easy to hire the very latest treadmills in Auckland to be delivered and installed in the comfort of your own home.
It’s either that or learning how to jog while wearing a face mask!