We all have to live with germs — but there are plenty of smart tricks to avoid the worst ones. Here’s how to keep the germs at bay while you get in shape.
Inflatable fitness balls and weighted medicine balls can be used for everything from crunches to weight workouts and group exercise. Germs find them fun, too. One study found the balls had Staphylococcus aureus, a common cause of staph infections, which can (in extreme cases) be potentially fatal. It can’t make you sick unless you have an open cut or touch your hands and face.
BUG OFF: Use an alcohol spray or disinfectant wipes on your hands after using the balls, and keep face towels separate from towels you use on the equipment. Or put an “x” on one side of the towel that you use to indicate the dirty side, and lay it on the ball or equipment.
Before you start adjusting your bike in your cycling class, you may want to disinfect the handlebars and seat. Handlebars and seats, particularly if they’re made from a soft and squishy material, can contain germs ranging from staph, including MRSA, to strep, E. coli and other things that cause gastrointestinal upsets.
BUG OFF: Take a tissue, pour alcohol hand gel on it and apply it liberally to the surfaces you touch, including the seat of the bike. Allow the alcohol to air-dry for a few minutes since it’s the drying and evaporation of the alcohol that kills the germs. It disinfects as it dries, so if you get it on your hands, it works there, too. Or wipe down the surfaces with disinfectant wipes. Wash your hands after the class as soon as possible. A laundered and bleached towel also protects you.
On days when you forget your water bottle, the water fountain may be your only hydration choice. Proceed at your own risk. Some people hit the spout with their mouths, and others may even spit in it, so user beware. The more people that use the fountain, the worse it is The highly contagious norovirus can easily spread this way. The button to turn on the fountain may also be rife with germs.
BUG OFF: Carry portable alcoholic wipes, and clean the button and spout before drinking from it.
Yup, the same device designed to rid your hands of harmful bacteria can also cause illness. Some bacteria can actually grow on the materials we use to wash and/or sanitize our hands. The nastier ones are members of the genus Pseudomonas, an organism that can attack any part of the body. It does not typically affect healthy people but usually causes disease in people with weakened immune systems. A biofilm (a layer of microorganisms) of bacteria can grow on alcohol that seeps out and evaporates to a concentration, allowing the germs to multiply.
BUG OFF: For protection, grab a paper towel and use it to touch the soap dispenser; then lay the towel down and wash your hands. Pick up the same towel to do the initial hand drying or use it to turn the handle of the towel dispenser.