How to nail good gym hygiene amid coronavirus pandemic

If you are returning to the gym, you’ll need to be extra-vigilant when it comes to keeping bacteria and viruses at bay.

Gyms are opening for business again but the coronavirus pandemic isn’t over, so being diligent about personal hygiene while you work out is all the more vital.

Coughs, colds and flus can also spread quickly in the gym.

Studies have examined the kinds of germs that can hide in gyms.

One study found that an exercise bike can have 39 times more bacteria than a plastic cafeteria tray, while free weights can be home to more germs than a toilet seat.

How to stay COVID-safe at the gym

Gyms are following rigorous hygiene routines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but what can you do to minimise your risk of infection?

Stay away if you’re unwell

“Firstly, be considerate and if you don’t feel well, don’t go to the gym,” says Dr Eevon Stott, chief executive of Active Living Longer and spokesperson for Exercise and Sports Science Australia.

“If you are coughing and sneezing you can transfer infected droplets to surfaces and when someone touches those surfaces and then touches their face or mouth, they can get sick too.

“So, if you don’t feel well, or if you suspect you have been in contact with an infected person, stay home.”

Ideally, check your temperature before you go to the gym. Generally, a temperature of 38C or more indicates an infection or illness.

BYO towel and equipment

Bring your own equipment if you can, like a yoga mat and resistance bands.

“After your workout you can leave any equipment you brought from home in the boot of your car,” says Eevon.

“This allows time for any bacteria you’ve picked up on the equipment to decay. Sanitise your equipment regularly, too.”

Victoria University fitness centre supervisor advises bringing your own drink bottle.

“If you refill it at the gym, make sure the mouthpiece doesn’t touch the tap. Wash your hands immediately after using a water fountain, too,” she says.

Should you use gym change rooms?

“The government has eased the restriction on using change rooms as long as physical distancing can be maintained but, where possible, shower at home,” says Brooke.

Wipe down equipment

Gyms are increasing the cleaning frequency of equipment and high-touch areas but it’s a good idea to wipe down each piece of equipment with sanitiser or disinfectant before and after you touch it.

“Don’t move from one piece of equipment to the next and back again. Finish your set on the piece of equipment you are using, wipe it down and move on to the next exercise,” recommends Brooke.

Stay alert

Make a note of the days and times when you attend a gym or exercise class. If there is a COVID-19 outbreak at the gym, you’ll know if you were there at the time or not.

“Create a new cue to remind you of the situation we’re currently in with COVID-19 – perhaps use a special towel when you go to the gym. It’s a reminder that you have to be extra vigilant about hygiene at the moment,” says Dr Stott.

More tips on staying safe amid coronavirus pandemic:

Written by Sarah Marinos.