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Germs at the gym: Expert advice on avoiding them

FORT MYERS, Fla. (CONSUMER REPORTS) — You go to the gym to keep yourself healthy, not to get an infection. But many gyms are breeding grounds for nasty bacteria, fungi and viruses.

While it’s easy to see how coughs, sneezes and unwashed hands might quickly spread viruses that cause colds, the most common infections people pick up at the gym are skin infections, as these germs thrive in warm, moist areas.

“Staph infections such as MRSA can be a little more worrisome because they’re resistant to some antibiotics, and so they’re a bit harder to treat,” said Teresa Carr of Consumer Reports. “But those infections, as well as really common infections such as plantar warts and athlete’s foot and jock itch, can all typically be prevented.”

Here are some common-sense strategies to protect yourself while getting fit, courtesy of Consumer Reports:

  • Keeping cuts and other open wounds covered.
  • Spread a towel over weight machines and always wear flip-flops in wet areas.
  • Bring your own exercise mat and disinfect it regularly, since the gym’s mats are probably not thoroughly cleaned between classes.
  • Practice good hygiene by wiping down equipment, washing your hands after a workout and showering after a swim.
  • Do your laundry, since washing your gear helps prevent germ buildup.

Consumer Reports also suggests checking to see if a gym’s equipment is well-maintained and if the bathrooms and locker rooms are clean and stocked with liquid soap and hand sanitizer.

Reporter:Lindsey Sablan
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