Vigilance In The Gym

By: Philip Nicosia


More and more health buffs are headed to the gym to get fit. More health clubs, too, are sprouting just about everywhere and there’s probably a new one in your neighborhood that attracts you. The club’s special offers and facilities such as the gym, Jacuzzi, pool and steam room are enticing you to join in. But before you get excited to start your fitness routine, learn about the health hazards first that the gyms are prone to have. You would not want to end up having skin rashes and other ailments after hours of exercise, would you?

Fitness experts say levels of hygiene usually vary from club to club. Some gyms do have high standards but the others are not so hygienic that they may cause infections and irritations to members. It’s sad though that in the U.S., where an estimated five million people joined health clubs in 2003 alone, there are no official rules for sanitation standards in private health clubs. With no health inspectors checking gym facilities, each club sets its own standards on hygiene like how often to clean facilities and equipment and how.

It’s important to know that germs are lurking everywhere including in the gym and these bacteria can cause dermatitis, conjunctivitis, verrucas, athlete’s foot and other skin rashes. You can get these irritations from various parts of the gym – swimming pool, changing rooms, exercise machines, sauna and steam rooms.

There are three types of germs that can breed on even the cleanest floors and walls. These are the fungi which causes athlete’s foot, viruses which are responsible for colds and flu and bacteria which causes skin infections and stomach upsets. They can be present in the gym’s changing rooms so check out if the rooms are cleaned several times a day, if there is grime existing in the corners especially the part where the wall meets the floor and if they have handwash and trash bins which should be emptied as often as possible. It’s best, therefore, to use rubber slippers or flip-flops when using the changing room as well as the showers and sauna and steam rooms.

In the swimming pool, some micro-organisms are always present which can be eliminated by chemical disinfectant and filtration. But if the chlorine used is either too little or too many, infections can happen. If gym users do not follow the “shower before swimming” rule, the pool can also become contaminated. Another possible problem is when the pool has too many bathers making the chlorine level insufficient. Check then that the pool has clear and bright water with a mild scent of chlorine, has drainage grills on the surface of the water, clean walls and the frequency of water treatment.

The gym is definitely a breeding ground for germs what with a hot and sweaty atmosphere. The sharing of unclean mats and exercise equipment also adds to the problem. For your safety then, make sure that you get a thorough briefing on proper operating procedures before using the gym equipment. Clean towels or paper towels should be provided to wipe the equipment before and after every use, the gym is cleaned regularly, a first-aid kit is on display, and staff members practice wiping down machines and weights. Check also that a drinking fountain is available as it is required by law and that there’s enough space in between machines for ease of movement. Be responsible enough as well to wipe any equipment before using it.

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