Workout Hygiene - Should you be Worried?

    Working out is supposed to be great for your health, and is one of the pillars of living a more robust life. The ironic thing about working out is working out in gyms, where you can catch many viruses or bacterial illnesses just by touching a piece contaminated equipment. Most gyms offer spray bottles with some mild form of sanitizing or disinfecting liquid along with paper towels.  Despite this somebody always slips through the cracks with some form of cold or skin problem, then it starts spreading throughout the gym until most everyone has become infected.

    I did a lot of research for this article and traveled down the rabbit hole to bring you some great tips and advice for protecting yourself in the gym.  Here are some tidbits of info that will inform you about hygiene and infections in general.



    Touching barbells, dumbbells, or any equipment that is used by other people at the gym is the easiest way to catch infectious diseases if they are lurking around. This is the main reason why it is of utmost importance to disinfect areas that you are touching on the cardio equipment, and wash your hand frequently.  Never forget this tip, do not touch your face or nose in the gym because Staph infections are quite common.



    Staphylococcus bacteria are common bacteria that are found in many places. In healthy individuals, Staph is found on your skin, or in your nose. These bacteria can stay there and be completely harmless. The problem arises and becomes dangerous (ie: deadly) when this bacteria enters deeper into the body, like the blood, joints, bones, lungs, and the heart. Treatment for most bacteria is antibiotics, and for the staph bacteria, treatment may also include draining of the infected area. Nowadays, however, some antibiotics have ceased to work on some staph infections. Staph is a hearty bacterium, so it can also live on inanimate objects like pillowcases and bath towels. This ability of the bacteria to live on something inhuman is long enough for the bacteria to transfer to another person who happens to touch the same object, like a barbell or the handles on an elliptical machine. Also, if you don’t properly wash your hands before handling food, the Staph bacteria can easily transfer from your hands to the food you’re preparing.

    Preventative measure for staph include hand washing, keeping wounds well covered, using your personal items ALONE and no one else, washing clothing in hot water, using bleach for materials that can support it... plus washing your hands.



    The most common type of staph infection is the boil. A boil is a big pocket of oozing pus (or more solid) that develops in a hair follicle or oil gland. The skin over the infected area usually becomes red, inflamed and swollen.

    If a boil breaks open, it will probably drain pus. Boils occur most often under the arms or around the groin or buttocks or in some cases, on the back by the shoulder blade.

    I personally had this on my back, by the shoulder blade from teaching group fitness at a local college gym that had old mats that probably weren't cleaned in years. I was wearing a tank top, sweating, and lying on the map without the protective barrier of a towel or shirt. I got what I thought was a zit on my shoulder blade, which I get often but it grew and grew into this big cyst (or at least I thought it was a cyst). Upon researching this article, I realize it was a huge boil, because boils are contagious and can spread bacteria or fungi on contact, which is what happened when I attempted to drain the boil myself…(don’t ask)…it spread to another spot an inch away. Now I had two golf ball sized boils, one after the other.

    Image of Boils on Skin

    The redness took several years to go away to the miniscule scars they are today. I learned my lesson from there on. Shirt is ON when I lay on a mat at a gym!!!



    Antibiotics can help kill most bacteria, and cure infections, but do not work on viruses.

    Two common types of germs are bacteria and viruses....strep throat and skin infections are illnesses caused by bacteria. Colds and flu are illnesses caused by viruses, so evidently antibiotics do not work on them. If you are prescribed them, you may be encouraging antibiotic resistance of the bacteria that is already naturally present. If you ever get a bacterial infection of that already present bacteria...watch out.

    A notable difference between a virus and bacteria is that most bacteria are harmless. In fact, bacteria help digest food and provide essential nutrients. These same bacteria reproduce on their own, so they don't need a “host” to latch onto. Less than 1% of bacteria actually cause diseases in people. Viruses are even smaller than bacteria; although both virus and bacteria cannot be seen with the naked eye. Viruses can only reproduce by attaching themselves to cells, and as opposed to bacteria, most viruses DO cause diseases!




    Athlete’s foot, or Tinea Pedis (Tinea is a ringworm), is caused by a fungus that infects the skin. It is somewhat common, and many people will have it at least once in their life. Prevention of athlete’s foot is done by keeping the feet dry, as a moist, warm environment is like food for this fungus. Treatment can be as simple as using creams that you can purchase at your local pharmacy.

    The fungus that causes athlete’s foot can enter through small cracks or wounds in the skin, where they affect the top layer of the skin. The most common places to catch this are…public showers! Also to note, the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot causes fungal nail infections, so Flip flops are in order when in these areas!

    A good breeding ground for this fungus are when our feet are in warm and moist shoes all day. The feet don’t have a chance to dry out. Apparently the fungus feeds on keratin, which is vastly available on the skin of our feet.

    Other possible preventative measures for feet, besides wearing flip-flops are: Not sharing towels, shoes or socks, washing socks, bedding and towels at 60 degrees Celsius or more, and adding a special anti-fungal laundry sanitizer if you absolutely cannot wash at 60 degrees or higher.



    Exercise is known for helping strengthen the immune system, which is great for getting healthy and remaining healthy. One thing that must be known is that immediately after a bout of exercise, the immune system is lowered. This is the main reason why it’s not good to go out to the clubs immediately following a somewhat intense workout session. Recovery is of the utmost importance to allow the immune system to get back up to baseline, and possibly even stronger. It’s been said that more moderate forms of exercise are better for strengthening the immune system, whereas very intense workouts wreak havoc on one’s immune system, increasing the potential for infectious diseases. Overtraining is notorious for taxing the immune system, which leads to illness if rest does not ensue.



    This is a completed topic, but for your information, I just wanted to glance over a few specifics.

    All the immune cells involved the immune response come from precursor that stem from within the bone marrow. They develop into mature immune cells through a series of changes that can occur in different parts of the body.  Some of the more common places for immune cells are:

    The Skin: This is usually the first line of defense again harmful microbes. The skin cells produce and secrete antimicrobial proteins, plus immune cells can be found within specific layers in the skin.

    Bone Marrow: Stem cells are contained within the bone marrow. These cells can develop into a variety of cell types. The Myeloid progenitor stem cell is the precursor to the following immune cells- neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, mast cells, monocytes, dendritic cells, and macrophages. All these immune cells are the first line of defense when it comes to fighting off infection.

    Blood: The immune cells in the bloodstream are always circulating the blood, looking for foreign particles. White blood cells are indicative of the immune system within the blood, so whether there are too little or too many white blood cells in the bloodstream upon taking a blood test, this means there’s a problem.

    Lymphatic System: The lymphatic system kind of runs parallel; to the circulatory or blood system, and is known as the sewage system. The major components of this system are lymph, extracellular fluid, and lymph nodes, among other forms of lymphoid organs. Doctors check patients for swollen lymph nodes, which may be indicative of an active immune system response.


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