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13 Ways to Avoid Germs at the Gym

Muscle and Fitness Logo By Diana Kelly Levey of Muscle and Fitness | Slide 1 of 14: Yes, you’re more likely to get the herpes simplex virus type 1 by kissing someone who has a cold sore (herpes simplex) or if you kiss them before a lesion shows up. But, if you touch equipment that someone with a current active lesion touched, especially if they touched the lesion and then touched the equipment, you may also be in contact with the virus, says Dr. Shainhouse.“Technically, people who get cold sores can actually shed small amounts of the HSV virus at all times. Some research has shown that the HSV virus survives for short periods of time outside the body and can survive on dry, inanimate surfaces—ranging from a few hours to eight weeks. “The viral load is significantly reduced by two hours after touching something, but it can last on your hands until you wash them or use alcohol sanitizer,” says Dr. Shainhouse. To prevent getting infected (up to 75 percent of people have been exposed and have antibodies already), wipe down equipment before using it, don’t touch your face when working out, and wash your hands well after exercising.

You don’t want your training routine at the gym to be the reason you get sick and are sidelined from working out. You know you should be wiping down equipment and not sharing towels, but do you know why? Do you know how long you should be waiting to use any equipment after wiping it down with a sanitizing wipe?

The gyms have gotten much better about cleanliness in recent years, said Thomas S. Ahrens, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., and authority on infectious disease. “A lot of them have alcohol-based wipes that can be used to clean equipment, in addition to hand sanitizer and that’s all good. Now, you just need to make sure you’re using that correctly.”

We also chatted with cleaning experts and skin doctors to learn about where you might encounter gym germs and bacteria that could be making you sick or cause a skin reaction—and how to avoid them. If you notice a strange rash or reaction on your skin, make an appointment with a dermatologist to get it checked out and treated.


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