Consumer Reports: Staying healthy at the gym

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If your New Year's resolution includes hitting the gym, here's an important warning before working out. (WPVI)

If your New Year's resolution includes hitting the gym, here's an important warning before working out.

Health clubs can be a breeding ground for some nasty bacteria, fungi and viruses. But as Consumer Reports reveals, there are some simple ways to protect yourself while getting fit.

You go to the gym to stay healthy. Which is ironic, given how much of a germ factory some gyms can be!

"You know, I think people understand that you can pick up a cold or a flu at the gym. But really some of the most common things that you pick up are skin infections," said Teresa Carr from Consumer Reports.

That's because germs that cause skin infections can thrive in the sweat that's left on exercise equipment and towels, as well as the warm, moist areas like pool decks.

"Staph infections such as MRSA can be a little more worrisome because they're resistant to some antibiotics and so they're a bit harder to treat. But those infections as well as really common infections such as plantars warts and athlete's foot and jock itch can all typically be prevented," said Carr.

Experts at Consumer Reports say common sense strategies can help keep you healthy while working out.

Start by keeping cuts covered. That's the best way to keep germs out.

Spread a towel over weight machines and always wear flip-flops in wet areas.

Also, bring your own exercise mat and disinfect it regularly. Chances are, the ones at the gym are not thoroughly cleaned between classes.

"And you know, some germs can live for days on those mats, as well as other surfaces in the gym such as weight machines and locker room benches," said Carr.

Practice good hygiene by wiping down equipment, washing your hands after a workout and showering after a swim.

And, do your laundry. Washing your gear helps prevent germ build up after you bulk up.

Consumer Reports also suggests taking a good look around a gym before you join.

Check to see if the equipment is well maintained, if the bathrooms and locker rooms are kept clean and stocked with liquid soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

All can be indications of how clean a health club is.
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