Is your gym making you sick?

(Shutterstock)

(Shutterstock)

Lisa Evans, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:40 PM ET

While logging an hour of cardio or weight training each day does your body good, spending time at the gym can actually make you sick. The warm, moist environment of athletic equipment, yoga mats and shower floors are favourite breeding grounds for bacteria, viruses and fungi that can result in anything from a cold or flu to skin infections.

“We recognize that any area within our clubs, as with all public spaces, have the potential to carry a soil load that needs to be cleaned appropriately on a regular basis to prevent the spread of bacteria,” says GoodLife Fitness director of club services, Aron Griffith.

“Hands spread an estimated 80% of common infectious diseases like the common cold and influenza,” says Sara O’Dacre from Health Canada.

“Germs can live for a surprisingly long time on hard surfaces like gym equipment handles,” says O’Dacre. The influenza virus, for example, can survive on surfaces for two to eight hours. Most gyms, including GoodLife Fitness, provide disinfectant stations and instruct members to wipe down machines after each use.

Nowhere are there more sweaty bodies than a hot yoga studio. Kim Scarrow, studio director of Moksha Yoga Vancouver, recommends clients bring their own yoga mats, wipe them down with a botanical disinfectant after each practice and allow time for mats to dry out. A yoga towel can not only help absorb sweat and allow you to better grip to the mat during warriors, but creates an additional barrier between your body and the mat. If you’re using weight machines, place a towel on benches before sitting or lying down to avoid skin contact.

Change out of sweaty clothes to avoid catching a chill and wash them immediately. “Bacteria love warm moist environments, especially if you forget your clothes in a plastic bag,” says Scarrow.

Of course, the best way to avoid illness is to boost your immune system and improve your body’s chance to fight off germs by eating healthy and getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep.


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