Sunday, July 20, 2008

All Those Bugs at the Gym, Oh My!

By: Jenny Walters

A recent article on entitled Germ warfare moves to the gym by Linda Saether dealt with the ever increases germs that are present at gyms around the U.S.

According to Dr. Brian Adams, director of University of Cincinnati Sports Dermatology Clinic, “Gyms are great for fitness, but like fun in the sun, you just have to be careful.”[1]

The main microorganisms present at gyms include bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Germs are able to travel to and from many gym –goers’ due to the number of people who share equipment, exercise mats, lockers, and showers. In addition, the activities that gym-goers’ take part in also put them at risk.

Dr. Adams stated: “The first several layers of skin are like a castle wall protecting the athlete from outside marauders. Abrasions from mats and weigh equipment, blisters from constant rubbing while running or using weight equipment both help to break down the castle wall and allow microorganisms to enter the skin.”

Sweating is also another way that germs can enter the body at a gym. According to Dr. Adams: “Sweating super-hydrates the skin and makes the athletes more likely to develop blisters. Sweating by itself may alter the castle and allow penetration of the bugs.”

Bugs that can cause problems include fungi, which can cause athlete’s foot, to viruses that can cause herpes or potentially deadly infections known as MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.

A first line of defense for the gym-goer is disinfectant. Before an individual uses any piece of equipment, he/she needs to wipe down the equipment with disinfectant wipes. The disinfectant wipes will kill any germs that were present on the gym equipment.

One gym-goer has her germ-fighting weapons all contained in her “ultrabreathable, pink, Nike backpack.” Her backpack contains a clean water bottle, plastic bags, workout gear, a clean towel, flip-flops for the shower, a fresh bag of wipes and “everyone’s weapon of choice, the don’t-leave-home-without-it pocket hand sanitizer.”

Due to news of MRSA spreading in gyms, germ fighting has been taken “up a notch.” Gyms today are offering hand sanitizers located throughout the gym and many other germ fighting products.

This article brings light to the age of being vigilant about germs. For me, a nurse a mother, I have the word vigilant about germs embedded into my brain. My husband thinks I go a little overboard, but I would rather be safe than worry about the germs my daughter has been exposed to throughout the day. However, as my pediatrician says, germs are everywhere and it’s good to be exposed to some now and than.

[1] Saether L. Germ warfare moves to the gym. July 2008. Available at: Accessed on July 18, 2008.

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