On your journey towards better heart health, one of your first steps will likely be into a gym. Science has proven time and time again that exercise is the most beneficial thing you can do for your heart. Not only is activity a fantastic preventive measure, but an excellent option for heart rehabilitation as well. That said, you’re stop at the gym comes with the expectation of better health. But there are also risks associated with your gym visit.
While there are many ways and exerciser can injure themselves, through improper form or over-exercising, there are also dangers within the gym environment itself. Here are a few of the unpleasant infections you may come across during your workout.
The first, and perhaps the scariest, is staphylococcus bacteria, or staph. While these bacteria are often found on the skin, they can only enter the body through cuts or scratches on the skin surface. At any given time about one in three people have staph bacteria on their skin. That said, the bacteria is most often passed from person to person, not surface to person. Therefore, those that engage in team sports or group exercises are most at risk. The most serious staph infection is methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA). One of the best ways to prevent staph infections, including MRSA, is through vigilant handwashing. Staph infections generally cause boils on the skin, so if you notice symptoms that don’t go away, see a doctor.
The next is one we have all been warned about, athletes foot. This nasty fungus thrives in a warm, dark, moist environments like gym bags and lockers. This fungus can invade more than just your feet. The groin, armpits, and under the breast are also at risk of contracting athletes foot. To avoid this unwelcome visitor, be sure to allow sneakers to fully dry-out after gym visits and regularly change out socks and towels. Athletes foot presents as a rash and can be cleared by over-the-counter antifungal medication.
Other infections that may be found at the gym, including ringworm, cold and flu, plantar warts, and more. The best defense is to wash your hands thoroughly and often. Also, allow gym shoes the opportunity to thoroughly dry and be sure to change out towels and socks for each gym visit.
Regardless of the risk of infection, the benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks. By incorporating some precautions into your routine, you can avoid infection and protect your heart.