Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Germ-Proof Your Workout

“You already know the gym can be a germ-fest. It's full of people--some cleaner than others--sweating all over things, touching their hands to their faces, wiping their foreheads, showering and walking around in various states of undress. In fact, the National Athletic Trainers' Association released a report last month detailing the dangers that gym settings pose to athletes, particularly from skin infections. The same report noted that studies have shown the percentage of healthy adults who are carriers for a nasty bacterium called MRSA shot up from 0.8 percent in 2001 to 7.3 percent in 2004. Illinois Department of Public Health statistics show that about 30 percent of Chicago's residents report exercising at least three times a week. And the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association reports that about 15 percent of Chicagoans have a gym membership, which figures to be about 439,000 people. As fall settles in and temps drop, some will move their workouts from outside into those gyms, where icky stuff can linger. Gym germ hot spots include machine handles, swimming pools, showers, saunas--anything wet or moist--and locker rooms. Dr. Russell Robertson, chairman of family and community medicine at Northwestern University, knows all too well that perspiring humans are like germ superhighways. ‘The perspiration, then, will sort of disseminate whatever [germ] it is that you have picked up,’ he said. While exercising in the gym at his own workplace, Robertson meticulously wipes down the machines on which he works out, both before and after his session, even if he thinks the previous person already cleaned it. ‘I wouldn't make any assumptions.’ The alternative--that you might not exercise at all, just for fear of contracting a rare or relatively harmless illness--can be counterproductive. ‘We need more people to be in [the gym],’ Robertson says. ‘If you choose to not work out because you're afraid of acquiring some infection, you're going to die a lot sooner.’”

No comments: