Clean workouts

If people are shying away from working out with you lately, chances are you are not following cleanliness measures. Here's what you need to do

Young girl sweating at the gymRippling muscles, a slender waist and six pack abs are all signs of well-toned fit body, but you can't really be called physically healthy unless you practice good hygiene with it.

A regular workout has become a necessary part of life for most of us. The 6-10 slots— both in the AM and PM—see all exercise facilities and health clubs bursting at the seams with the sheer number of exercisers. Sweaty bodies, breathing hard and fast, share limited space and equipment and probably germs too.

A workout sans hygiene is an open invitation to disease and infection. We all know that a regular workout improves our immunity and helps keep infections at bay. Research, however, indicates that our immunity actually lowers for a short span while exercising. This means that a gym is the very place where you are vulnerable to infections.

In the gym

Regardless of where you workout, alone at home, or in a public gym, following basic hygiene is imperative.

    • Shoes: Do not wear the footwear you use outdoors on the gym floor; Many exercises require lying down on the floor. Bringing in dirt or mud [and God knows what else!] with your shoes will simply not do.
    • Sweat: Keep anti-perspirants out of the gym. An antiperspirant prevents sweating. Usually, our body produces heat at the rate of 15 kcal per minute when exercising as opposed to 1.25 -1.5kcal per minute when we are not. Sweating is an important mechanism to promote heat loss and dissipate this heat during exercise. A deodorant on the other hand, masks body odour and should be used judiciously. Better still, wipe down your body especially the problem areas [armpits and groin] and change into a fresh pair of workout clothes before hitting the floor. Contact a qualified physician to rid you of the problem otherwise.
    • Breath: Keep your breath fresh. Many exercises require exhaling through the mouth and bad breath reeks of bad health and hygiene. Do a breath check and use mouth freshener or a mouthwash before going to the gym, if required. Dehydration also causes bad breath, so consume adequate fluids before, during and after the workout.
    • Socks: Carry a fresh pair of socks for every workout. Old, sweaty socks cause discomfort to others around you. They also harbour bacteria that can cause fungal infections of the foot and toenails.
    • Shower: Bathe after a workout, if not at the exercise facility, then at home. It is imperative to wash off all the collected dirt and germs from the gym and unclog the pores.
    • Infections: Avoid the gym if you have a common cold or similar infections. It is okay to exercise with a common cold albeit at a suitably modified intensity. Choose an outdoors workout in a non-crowded environment over the gym to limit the spread of the virus.
    • Clothes: Use a fresh set of workout clothes each time. Do not stow used clothes in the locker for re-use even if you did not sweat. Just like socks, these will be a hotbed of bacteria and fungi and can cause a skin infection. Other than that, they will reek, of course.

Towel: Carry a workout towel or napkin, large enough to place under your body surface that touches the exercise equipment. This prevents your sweat from spreading to the equipment as well as getting the previous users' sweat on your clothes.

Rules for the pool

  • Rinsing or bathing before entering the pool is a must to prevent transferring outside grime and dirt to the pool.
  • A foot bath just prior to entering a pool is also mandatory. Not even the dirt or dust picked up in the transit from the changing room to the pool must enter the pool.
  • If you plan to stay longer in the pool, use earplugs. This helps prevent infections and damage to the middle ear. Keep earplugs clean, dry and store them under hygienic conditions.
  • Use of swimming goggles is recommended. Store them in the similar way you store earplugs.
  • Apart from clean and appropriate swimwear, it is important to wear a cap, especially if your hair is long. You wouldn't want strands of loose hair entering your mouth or nose while swimming, would you?
  • Though most pools will not allow oil on the body or hair, use a barrier between the water and your skin such as petroleum jelly.
  • If you are suffering from an infectious skin disease, do not use the pool, no matter what precautions you take.
  • Rinsing and thoroughly drying swimwear are basic steps to follow before storing. If your swimwear remains moist, the chances of bacteria or fungi proliferating on it are high.
  • Bathing properly after the swim is essential to wash of the chlorinated pool water as well as any contaminants.

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Ruchira Tendolkar
Dr Ruchira Tendolkar, MBBS, is an A.C.S.M certified health and fitness instructor. She is also an A.C.E certified clinical exercise specialist and a consultant, practitioner and educator for exercise science.