Post on: 2020-09-09.

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How to Avoid Germs at the Gym.

Can you get sick from going to the gym? Is the gym full of germs? Here’s how to be fit, stay healthy and avoid getting sick.

Sweaty handlebars at the gym can make just about anyone squirm, leading many to wonder is it safe to go to the gym? Can you get sick from the gym? It is possible to stay fit, head to your favourite gym, and not get sick. Here’s everything you need to know to avoid germs at the gym. Plus, tips on ways to workout outside the gym if that’s your preference.

Is it safe to go to the gym?

Experts have put the gym to the test. Taking bacterial and viral culture swabs of surfaces at the gym where people put their hands, researchers found there is little risk of exposure on exercise equipment to pathogenic bacteria. However, they found are a lot of rhinoviruses (runny nose causing viruses) hidden at the gym. Washing your hands is key at the gym, and everywhere to avoid upper respiratory viruses. The Center for Disease Control says the best way to not catch the common cold is to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. The average adult touches their face 23 times per hour, with about half of those being to mucosal surfaces such as the eyes, nose or mouth.

Can I catch COVID-19 at the gym?

Researchers have also looked into whether visiting the gym increases your risk of getting sick from COVID-19. In a study, researchers suggested it is safe to go back to the gym. But, it’s very important to note that in this study of 4000 adults using the gym, the equipment was stringently cleaned; equipment was wiped between users and everyone practiced physical distancing. Together we can prevent the spread of COVID-19! Practice physical distancing (2 meters or 6 feet) while at the gym, wash your hands frequently (and well), and stay home if you are not well.

How do you avoid germs in the gym?

Since heading to the bathroom to wash your hands between each of your sets isn’t feasible, simply don’t touch your face! Help out by wiping down equipment with disinfectant before and after use. There’s more you can do to stay healthy! Humans have great immune systems. If your body is healthy, not busy fighting high sugary foods, fatigue or high levels of stress, it can be very good at fighting off most common germs. Keep healthy with a daily routine that includes regular meals filled with healthy foods, sufficient rest, and hydration.

How to not get sick

Take time to add hand washing into your routines, particularly at the end of every workout. Most importantly, take your time! University of Michigan researchers found most people only scrub and lather their hands for 6 seconds – the Center for Disease Control advice for hand washing is at least 20 seconds. Not sure how long that is? Singing Happy Birthday takes a mere 10 seconds – you’d do best to sing it twice. Go ahead and sing it loud and proud while you wash your hands (or, sing it in your head if you’re worried you’ll break the mirrors).

Can exercise prevent you from getting sick?

Exercise really is good for you. When exercise is done at the right intensity and frequency, it may help prevent you from getting sick. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, exercising regularly makes you less likely to get a cold. The benefit to those who exercised was significant – it cut the risk of getting sick in half.

However, some exercising can be tough on your body and make it less capable of fighting off germs. Researchers have noted a decline in the immune system after intense durations of exercise. Theories suggest this may be a way for the body to limit inflammation after intense bouts, but it may also increase the risk of the common cold.

You are more likely to get sick from the gym if you’re burning the candle at both ends. Not getting enough sleep can lower your body’s defences, making you more likely to get sick if you are working out near someone who is sick.

What to do if you can’t go to the gym

Going to the gym isn’t the only way to exercise! Depending on where you live or work, you can use your office building, home, or a park to workout. Need a little inspiration to get your toes moving? Online there are fun dance videos to get you moving. Or, you can find yoga classes for all flexibilities, various types of HITT workouts, and more online. You can also create your own workout: choose a series of 6-10 physical movements that use different body parts you can do in the space you have, choose a goal (e.g. 5 sets of 20 reps of each, with a minute rest in between). Use stairs to get your heart rate up, a sturdy chair or coffee table for tricep dips, and the floor for planks, lunges and core exercises. At home, simple body weight and resistance bands can be really effective. For bodies stuck in desk chairs for hours, try adding into your weekly home workout routine a core workout and hip opening yoga stretches. Do your own thing! Whether it’s a brisk morning walk with the dog, a long bike ride, or a hike in the woods there are many ways to stay fit outside of the gym too.

Why does exercise make me feel sick?

Feeling dizzy, or nauseated, when you are working out, is your body’s way of telling you to slow down. If you are going too hard, or too fast it can cause you to feel unwell. If you can’t sing, but can talk then you’re likely workout out at the perfect intensity.

Quick recovery foods include smoothies.

Don’t forget to fuel up before a workout! If you didn’t eat a light snack (complex carbohydrates and a bit of fruit) before heading to the gym in the morning, there’s no quick energy available for you to burn. It’s like trying to run a car with an empty fuel tank. Fuel up! And, don’t forget to eat after a workout. Recovery nutrition is key, particularly as we age and our muscles are less efficient at rebuilding.

Check out the Best Energy Ball Recipe for a quick post workout recovery snack.


Upper respiratory tract infection is reduced in physically fit and active adults. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2011 Sept; 45:987-992.

Does exercise increase the risk of upper respiratory tract infections? British Medical Bulletin 2009; 90:111-131.

Diversity of bacterial communities of fitness center surfaces in a U.S. metropolitan area. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2014 Dec; 11(12): 12544 – 12561.

Hand washing practices in a college town environment. Journal of Environmental Health 2013 Apr,75:(8) 18-24

Prospective study of bacterial and viral contamination of exercise equipment. Clin J Sport Med 2006 Jan;16(1):34-8.

Face touching: a frequent habit that has implications for hand hygiene. Am J Infect Control 2015 Feb;43(2):112-4.