It's no joke that gym equipment is teeming with bacteria, and many of these germs can lead to all kinds of infections. And it's not just treadmill and exercise bikes, but dumbbells and barbells, too. Along with all the pesky bacteria, cold and flu viruses can live on hard surfaces (like stainless steel or hard plastic) for up to 24 hours. We definitely don't want you to stop working out — after all, regular exercise is great for the immune system — but there are some very, very easy ways to keep all those germs at bay.
- Wash your hands. This one is so simple, and so easy to forget. But do wash your hands before heading to the treadmill or the weight room; then wash your hands afterwards — especially if you're opting to shower at home.
- Wipe it down. Your gym should have disinfectant wipes or spray sanitizer available; look for it, and use it regularly before you hop on that rowing machine or stationary bike. If you're planning three sets of deadlifts with a barbell, wipe that down, too. And pay it forward — after finishing your workout, wipe down the equipment you use.
- Avoid touching your face. It's hard to avoid touching your face during a sweat session, but you need to disrupt the transfer of germs from the machine through your hands to your vulnerable spots (like your nose and eyes). Keep your hair pulled off your face so you don't need to futz with it and unintentionally wipe some germs on your eyes. Definitely use hand towels to wipe your face.
- Wear your flip-flops. Don't walk around the locker room barefoot! This is more about avoiding fungal infections, like itchy athlete's foot, which can be as annoying as the common cold.
- Wear it and wash it. Sweaty workout gear harbors bacteria, making it important to keep it clean and germ-free. Even if they don't stink, the germs can "stick" to your clothes, which means bringing these little devils into your home.