Take precautions in the gym to avoid spreading illness

January 12, 2013

With one of the most aggressive flu seasons in recent years bearing down on the U.S., it makes good sense to take the necessary precautions to try to avoid getting sick. Since the gym is a prime breading ground for germs, viruses and contagious diseases, you’ll need a plan to help you make it through the season without landing flat on your back. Here are six things you can do to minimize your chances of getting sick and missing your workouts.

Wash your hands

Bars, dumbbells and weight-lifting machines all have handles or grips that are touched by hundreds of people a week. They are a virtual petri dish of assorted germs, and if you don’t wash your hands after working out, you’re putting yourself at great risk for sickness. That’s why it’s essential that you wash your hands before and after your workout to help protect yourself and others from microscopic germs that may be lying in wait for you.

Wipe down equipment before and after you use it

It’s not enough to wash your hands; you must also wipe down the equipment before and after every use. Machines and other equipment in the gym are like magnets for sweat, germs and other unpleasant things that can be quickly passed to others. The best way to ensure that you don’t expose yourself is to wipe down everything you use before and after you use it, keeping yourself and others as germ free as possible. Most gyms keep a spray bottle loaded with disinfectant and paper towels ready to go; all you have to do is make sure you use it.

Bring a change of clothes to the gym

Wet, sweaty clothes can breed germs and bacteria, so the sooner you change them for a clean, dry set of duds, the better. I like to bring a extra set of clothes with me to change into after hard workouts, especially during the winter months when temperatures are freezing and it’s not a good idea to go outside wet.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Even if you are constantly washing your hands, it’s still a good idea to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, because these areas are portholes to disease and sickness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can greatly reduce your chances of catching a disease or virus by keeping your hands clean and away from your face.

Get 8-10 hours of sleep a night

Failure to get enough sleep can leave your immune system weak and your body vulnerable to any germs and sickness that may be out there, so it’s a great idea to make sure you are getting 8-10 hours of sleep each night. This will help you recuperate from hard workouts and keep your body strong and more likely to fight off colds and flu.

If you are sick, stay home

Last but not least, please stay home if you are feeling under the weather or you will make other people sick too. The warm and damp environment of the gym is a great place to spread germs, because a lot of people are close together using the same equipment. As you cough and sweat all over everything, you are exposing everyone in the gym to whatever bug you have. Remember, people at the gym are trying to get healthy, not catch colds.

Let’s face it - you can’t live your life in a bubble avoiding all the harmful bacteria and germs that are out there looking for an opportunity to make you sick, but you can certainly reduce your chances of getting ill if you take certain precautions while working out.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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