Going to the gym is part of many guests’ routine. They go to the gym to work up a sweat and improve their health and well-being.
However, gyms can also be places where people can pick up germs and infections. Gyms provide favourable conditions for the growth of microorganisms.
Damp conditions, sweaty patrons, and contact with the equipment provides ideal conditions for germs to thrive.
Studies by the NCBI have shown that gym surfaces are teeming with bacteria and germs. This potentially makes gyms a Petri dish for nasty bugs and infections.
FitRated took samples from 27 pieces of equipment across three gyms, and this is what they found:
To help put this into perspective, here is a quick comparison of the findings with everyday items:
- On average, gym equipment has at least 1 million germs per square inch.
- A treadmill averages about 74 times more bacteria than a public toilet tap.
- Exercise bikes host approximately 39 time more germs than cafeteria trays.
- Free weights can harbour up to 362 times more bacteria than a toilet seat.
Lax sanitary practices in gyms make this even worse. In a survey of over 1000 gym-goers, disregard for hygienic practices found to be a major concern. In the study, we learn that:
- More than 50% have witnessed bathroom users not wash their hands and continue using gym equipment.
- 35% of the men and 25% of the women admitted to never wiping down equipment after use.
- 38.4% of don’t wipe down equipment in the afternoons and 21.2% don’t do in the later evening.
As a gym proprietor, there are several measures you can take to fight germs in your facility. But the most effective, by far, is to ensure that your gym is spotless at all times.
“It’s really important to go to the gym and be healthy, people should not (have to) worry about getting sick… keeping them from the gym.”
Dr Nirav Patel. Chief Medical Officer at the University Medical Center New Orleans.
To effectively clean and protect your guests from gym germs, you first need to understand what they are.
Here is a list of the most common germs found in gyms, and recommendations to prevent their spread in your gym.
Staphylococcus aureus bacteria or Staph as is commonly known is one of the most common germs in the gym. It lives on the skin, nose, and throat and can spread through contact with an infected surface.
Typically a Staph infection is not very serious. It can cause a rash, some swelling, boils and even a fever.
However, in less common instances, a Staph infection can be hazardous, even lethal. This kind is caused by a more severe strain of the bacteria - Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
MRSA is more likely to spread from person to person rather than through contact with infected surfaces. However, it can still crawl into scratches, nicks, and open wounds on the skin.
The best way to curb Staphylococcus infections in your gym is through:
- Ensuring proper cleaning and disinfecting of gym equipment and surfaces
- Enforcing a no-open-wound policy for all cuts, scratches, sores, etc. no matter how minor
- Encouraging frequent hand washing and sanitizing with alcohol-based sanitisers
- Ensuring gym equipment is wiped down before and after every use
Commonly known as the flu, influenza is a virus that causes a mild respiratory infection.
It spreads through droplets in coughs and sneezes and can stay alive for some time outside the body.
The influenza virus can live on the skin for up to three hours, and on surfaces for up to four hours.
“If you grab a dumbbell that’s got influenza virus on it, and touch your eye, or wipe your mouth, at least theoretically, you can get it. People are spreading these viruses before they even realise they’re sick.”
Dr Britt Marcussen, MD. Associate professor, University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine
The best ways to prevent the spread of influenza in your gym is through:
- Ensuring frequent hand washing and use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers
- Wiping down gym equipment with antibacterial wipes before and after use
- Proper cleaning and disinfecting of gym equipment and surfaces
The coronavirus disease or COVID-19 is an infectious respiratory illness caused by a new strain of the coronavirus.
It spreads primarily through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is highly contagious and in some cases, a lot more dangerous than other respiratory illnesses like the flu.
The virus can survive on various surfaces for anywhere from a few hours and up to several days. The duration depends on factors such as temperature, humidity, and surface type.
“The virus typically doesn’t like to live on surfaces that have a lot of holes or microscopic little grooves, nooks, and crannies. It likes very smooth surfaces, like doorknobs.”
Dr Frank Esper, MD, Center for Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Cleveland.
The virus can also survive on gym surfaces and equipment, and transmit to and between guests.
The most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your gym are:
- Staying well informed about the virus, the illness it causes and how it spreads. COVID-19 is a newly discovered virus, with new information found every day.
- Increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting with a focus on high contact areas. These include the door handles, lockers, and equipment.
- Ensuring soap and sanitiser dispensers remain filled throughout the day.
- Providing cleaning stations to encourage guests to clean equipment before and after use.
Providing educational posters and other materials to remind guests and employees of the importance of good hygiene.
Tinea refers to a group of diseases caused by a fungus. The most common types of tinea infections are:
- Athlete’s foot
- Jock itch
The fungus needs three things to grow – moisture, warmth, and darkness. This makes sweaty sneakers and gym locker rooms the perfect breeding grounds. Especially, paired with the fact that fungi are everywhere!
Although most people can pick up a fungal infection from walking barefoot in the gym change rooms, personal hygiene also plays a critical role.
As a gym proprietor, you can help control the spread of fungal infections by:
- Ensuring proper ventilation in the gym and locker rooms.
- Ensuring regular cleaning and disinfecting of the locker rooms and other gym areas.
- Ensuring proper cleaning and drying of towels, workout mats, and other textiles in the gym
Plantar warts are caused by a strain of the human papillomavirus (HPV). These are a group of more than 100 viruses that can cause a wide range of infections from warts to cervical cancer.
Most people contract the strain that causes plantar warts by walking barefoot in the gym.
The most effective way to prevent the spread of HPV in the gym is to ensure proper cleaning and disinfection. Especially in wet areas like showers, saunas, and locker rooms.
You should also enforce a policy to ensure guests don’t use outside shoes in the gym area. These track in a wide range of germs and increase the risk of infection.
Additionally, you can enforce a no bare feet policy to help lower your guests’ risk of infection.
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that is most commonly known for causing food poisoning.
Infection with Salmonella (salmonellosis) typically causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and sometimes even fever. The symptoms usually start between 12 and 72 hours after infection and can last between 4 to 7 days.
Infection is rarely fatal, but if it gets to the bloodstream, it can be life-threatening.
At the gym, Salmonella can spread through contaminated water. It can also spread from person to person due to improper, or lack of handwashing after a bowel movement.
Dirty hands can spread the bacteria through:
- Direct contact with another person
- Contact with frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Contact with food or drinks such as through a public water fountain
The most effective way to combat the spread of Salmonella at the gym is by observing good hygiene.
- Ensure all hand soap and sanitiser dispensers are well-stocked at all times
- Ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of equipment and frequently touched surfaces
- Ensure towels and other textiles are laundered regularly, and at the hottest setting possible
- Ensure regular and thorough cleaning of washrooms
- Ensure frequent cleaning and disinfection of bathroom handles, basins, and taps
It is evident just how important proper hygiene is in the prevention of dangerous gym germs. More so in the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Proper cleaning and disinfecting is the most effective way to curb the spread of germs. In turn, this will boost your clients' confidence in your facility and improve business.
But remember, proper cleaning and disinfection demands a systematic approach. Consider the following steps to help streamline the sanitation of your facility:
Signs instructing members to clean up after themselves work well enough during off-peak seasons. But this quickly breaks down in busier months.
Ensure you have staff passing through to wipe down and disinfect high contact surfaces, and areas where sweat can collect. These include:
- Touch screens
- Bike handles
- Seats and benches
Weights and Bars
Free weights and pull-up bars can be more dangerous than they look. They are often neglected as people don’t sweat on them as they would other equipment.
This neglect makes them a Petri dish of nasty germs, as more of them can collect on these surfaces. Adjust your cleaning procedures to address this neglect.
Most people don't wash their hands before heading to the locker room. They bring germs from the weights and machines with them.
Have your staff clean the locker rooms throughout the day, disinfecting high touch areas.
Gym washrooms present the same challenges as those in any other public facility. Follow the recommended cleaning procedures using the following simple steps:
- Focus on germ hotspots. These include:
- Shower curtains
- Prevent cross-contamination. This occurs mostly on high contact surfaces such as handles, switches, and faucets.
- Use the appropriate personal protective equipment. PPE help prevent cross-contamination. They also protect the staff from contact with harmful germs, and cleaning chemicals
- Reduce points of contact through automation. Reduced contact with surfaces means a reduced likelihood for cross-contamination. You can achieve this through the use of:
- Focus on germ hotspots. These include:
People go to the gym to improve their health and wellbeing. They need not worry about catching a nasty gym-germ while there. And thankfully, if you follow these simple recommendations, they won’t have to.
Source: Wallpaper Flare