Keeping up with proper hygiene is important for maintaining good health. If you’re exercising regularly, then you already are placing your health at high importance. When you exercise though, you sweat and encounter several dirty environments (whether it is the gym, outdoors, or at home) that can expose the body to large amounts of bacteria that can harm your health. The more often you expose yourself to these environments and don’t keep up with hygiene, the more susceptible you are to nasty germs! These germs can harm the immune system, cause infections, and lead to colds. Proper post-workout hygiene can kill and prevent bacteria from hurting you; but if not, you may be putting yourself at risk.
Bacteria Quick-facts: Moisture, Warmth, and Darkness are it’s 3 favorite things. Common bacteria you might find include: propionibacteria acnes, which are linked to acne and other skin conditions, trichophyton, which can cause athlete’s foot and ringworm, and streptococcus,which can cause “flesh-eating” strep infections and meningitis.
Using Your Hands to Wipe Away Sweat
The equipment you’re using is typically used be several people and are touched by sweaty bodies. So when you touch this equipment, you pick up bacteria on your hands. Not to mention your hands are probably at least a little sweaty, so when you use your hands to wipe away sweat, you spread more bacteria on those areas. The bacteria will attach to the hot, moist sweat on your body and begin to breed; and cause infection.
The fix: Use towels or paper towels to wipe sweat, and wash your hands when you can.
Not Washing Your Face
This is a big no-no, especially when you use your hands or other body parts to wipe away sweat. The face is super sensitive to bacteria, so the longer the sweat sits on your face, the more time for the bacteria to breed and cause acne. If you’re also touching your face a lot, your chances of infection, especially acne increase dramatically.
The fix: Wash your face after workouts. If this is not possible, use make-up remover wipes or cleansing wipes and touch-up makeup if necessary. Limit touching the face as much as possible.
Not Washing Your Hands
We use our hands for practically everything. For reasons explained in the past two mistakes, not washing your hands will increase the spread of bacteria to areas on the body, and to everything you touch. The more you touch, more you spread, the more likely you are to contract infections.
The fix: Wash your hands as often as possible, wear lifting gloves in the gym, and carry hand sanitizer with you.
Not Washing Your Body
The longer you go without showering after workouts, the longer the bacteria grows and infects the skin. This is one of the major causes of acne appearing all over the body due to sweat build up. Washing your body right after exercise will clean and kill all of the sweat and bacteria before most harm can be done.
The fix: Since bacteria loves warm and wet environments, it’s important to shower as soon as possible to kill the bacteria and wash away the sweat to prevent any skin infections and acne breakouts. Cleansing wipes can often help if immediate showering isn’t possible. Make sure not to put on any sweaty gym clothes after cleansing.
Not Changing Out of Your Sweaty Gym Clothes
This goes hand in hand with not showering afterwards. Wearing your damp gym clothes all day is not a good idea. Not only does the body get sweaty, but your clothes do too. Changing out of your workout clothes right after workouts will dramatically decrease spread of infection. This is one of the other major causes of body acne. Keeping sweaty clothes on may be even worse for women because of the dramatically increased susceptibility to developing vaginal infections from tight, warm, and sweaty bottoms.
The fix: Change out of gym clothes as soon as possible! Carry an extra set of clothes with you to the gym. Avoid wearing a piece of clothing for more than a single use.
Not Cleaning Your Equipment
All of the equipment you touch will leave a sweaty residue from your body. Whether you share equipment with others or not, if it is rarely cleaned, it will harbor bacteria and let it colonize, causing many types of infection.
The fix: Clean equipment after use, especially if it is shared and if you use it frequently. If you cannot clean your own equipment after every use, aim to clean it weekly.
Going Barefoot in Locker Rooms and Showers
When it comes to these public spaces, shoes or flip-flops are a must. These areas are used and often touched by many dirty, sweaty feet and you never know who may have toe fungus, athlete’s foot, or warts. Avoiding going barefoot will dramatically decrease your chances at contracting these infections.
The fix: Always wear shoes or flip-flops in locker rooms and showers. If this isn’t possible, stand on a clean towel to prevent standing on the floor.
Reusing Dirty Water Bottles (plastic)
It may become a habit to reuse the same water bottle several times at the gym before washing it, because it’s just containing water right? Reusing any type of water bottles can be dangerous because the bottle collects bacteria from your saliva, the plastic, and whatever contents you put in the bottle. Water bottles host a terrifyingly good environment for bacteria to thrive, increasing the importance of using fresh, clean bottles at the gym. If the water bottle is left outside or in a hot car and gets hot, forget about drinking out of it.
The fix: Clean your bottles every day, use different bottles if one is dirty, and drink out of reusable bottles.