Germs In Your Gym Bag

  1. I thought I would share this interesting article. :heart:

    Germs in your gym bag

    by FIONA DUFFY - 27th March 2007


    You might be feeling virtuous as you zip up your gym bag and head off home after that strenuous workout. But you could be walking off with more than just feel-good endorphins. Experts are warning that sports gear - and even your gym bag - can harbour a host of unpleasant bacteria. FIONA DUFFY reports on the germs lurking in your kit.



    These prevent your eyes being irritated by chlorine and other chemicals in a swimming pool, but used incorrectly, they can pose health risks. Acanthamoeba keratitis is a painful and potentially blinding condition affecting the cornea - the transparent covering at the front of the eye.
    The organism which causes it, Acanthamoeba, is found everywhere, including chlorinated pools.
    People who wear contacts lenses are more at risk because they are more likely to have minor abrasions or dry areas on their eye which can become infected, says Kevin Lewis, president of the College of Optometrists.
    Failing to rinse your goggles and allowing them to dry completely before storing encourages mould and bacteria, increasing the risk of conjunctivitis and infection of the lashes, eyelids or skin around the eyes.

    Preventative action: Avoid swimming in contact lenses and wear prescription goggles. "If you want to wear goggles over contact lenses, make sure they completely seal the eye," says Mr Lewis.
    "If water does leak in, it defeats the object of wearing goggles and risks infection. After swimming, remove and disinfect your lenses."
    Optometrists stock prescription goggles and will be able to advise on fitting and adjusting the eye cup for maximum comfort and fit. Choose goggles which carry the British Standard BS 5883: 1996.
    As chlorine can eat away at the seals, rinse goggles in clean water, says Ian Anderson, chairman for the charity the Eyecare Trust. Replace at the first sign of leakage or damage, and never share, as this can spread infection.


    Sharing towels has been linked to the spread of a new type of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in athletic and sports teams.
    "Community-acquired strains of MRSA are quite different from the hospital type," says Dr Sally Bloomfield of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene in London.

    "They have acquired the ability to produce a potent tissue toxin called Panton-Valentine Leukocidin (PVL), which can lead to skin and soft tissue infections, including flesh-eating forms.
    "These bacteria can infect the young and healthy. Transmission via close contact, sharing towels and sports equipment is a significant risk factor."
    More than half of us carry the 'old type' of Staphylococcus aureus on our skin. Anyone with broken skin - cuts, wounds or abrasions - is at risk of contracting a staph infection from someone else.
    You can also pass on threadworm parasites and infections such as diarrhoea and tummy upsets through towels, says Professor Jean Emberlin of the University of Worcester.

    Preventative action: If using a towel to wipe machine handles or place over seats in the gym, don't use it to wipe sweat off your hands or face - there's a danger of picking up other people's germs. Use separate towels for your body and the equipment.
    To avoid the spread of fungal infections, don't use a towel that's been used on your feet or underarms or had contact with the floor. Wash gym towels after every use at 60 degrees - or 40 degrees with a bleach-based powder.


    Swimmers' ear (otitis externa) is an infection caused by bacterial or fungal growth in the ear canal. It is caused by water becoming trapped, which encourages bacteria to grow.
    Though earplugs can help prevent this, studies show many aren't effective, says Jeremy Lavy, consultant ENT surgeon at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in London.
    The ear canal is naturally curved, so is difficult to seal effectively. The danger is that water will leak past the plugs. Some with sharp edges can damage the sensitive skin of the ear canal, which increases the risk of infection.
    "It's not unknown for wax earplugs to get pushed in so far that you can't get them out and need to have them removed by a specialist," says Mr Lavy. "Swimming underwater can force them in further."
    Conventional plugs can become dirty with ear wax and detritus. And the thin, sensitive ear canal skin can easily be damaged, leading to infection.

    Preventative action: The most effective, comfortable and easy-to-insert waterproof earplug is cotton wool impregnated with Vaseline.
    "As Vaseline is hydrophobic, it repels water, and the soft cotton wool fits easily into the ear canal," says Mr Lavy.
    If you do use conventional earplugs, wash them with soap and water and allow to dry properly before replacing in their container. Never re-use earplugs after suffering an ear infection And pull your swimming cap over your ears to keep earplugs in place, says Helen Gorman of swim equipment specialists Zoggs.

  2. [​IMG]

    Don't have your own mat? You won't want to use the gym's communal supply after you've read this. The average gym mat contains 100,000 bacteria per square centimetre, and some contain faecal bacteria (which could cause tummy upsets).
    Podiatrists also blame dirty exercise mats for a rise in athlete's foot and veruccas.
    "Fungus thrives in moist environments, so if they are not kept spotless, mats can be the perfect breeding ground," says yoga teacher Panilla Marott of Triyoga in London.
    "If this goes unchecked, it can lead to toenail fungus characterised by blackening of the nails." A good quality mat is also essential to prevent slipping.

    "If it grips the floor, there is less chance of injury. Slipping mid-posture can lead to groin strain, pulled muscled or even a fracture."
    Preventative action: Keep your mat germ-free by washing once a month with a little mild detergent on a cool wash cycle and allow to air-dry.
    Between washes, wipe down with a damp, then dry, cloth, to remove dust and dirt.
    Panilla recommends non-slip mats by ecoYoga, prAna and Bhu (
    Damp, sweaty gym kit should be laundered after every workout because of the risk of the new strains of community-acquired MRSA.
    "Sports clothing should be washed at the same temperatures advised for towels," says Dr Sally Bloomfield.
    Studies show that the longer you stay in damp, close-fitting, workout clothes, the more chance you have of developing acne and skin irritations.
    Trapped sweat can also trigger yeast infections, particularly under large breasts and the groin, says sports dermatologist Brian Adams.
    Preventative action: Ensure your kitbag has a separate area to stash damp, soiled gym clothing - if not, use a separate bag.

    Dry your body thoroughly after showering. Wear cotton knickers and specialist sports bras that wick away sweat from the skin. Avoid tight pants, nylon and synthetics.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Is that faithful old sports bra still giving you support? "A sports bra is not a one-off purchase nor will it last for life," says Selaine Messem, of Less Bounce (
    "It needs to be replaced regularly.' Breasts are composed of fatty tissue, held up by thin bands called Cooper's ligaments. Running makes breasts move in a figure of eight.
    "Short term, you will experience pain from repetitive trauma caused by constant movement and bouncing," says Selaine. "Long term, you'll stretch the Cooper's ligaments, leading to drooping." Larger-breasted women may feel tension and strain in the back and neck.
    The first part of a sports bra to wear out is the front elastic in the straps. An over-the-head crop top will lose elasticity in the band under the ribs.

    Preventative action: Replace your sports bra after 30 to 40 washes or when it shows signs of wear and tear, such as increased movement of the breasts, chafing and fabric piling or bobbling. Runners should get through three sports bras for every pair of trainers.
    You can demote your worn-out running bra to low impact activities, such as yoga. FLIP-FLOPS
    Showers, saunas and locker rooms are rife with viruses and fungal diseases that can cause athlete's foot, veruccas and onychomycosis (a fungal infection of toenails or fingernails).
    Many people wear flip-flops to protect themselves.

    "You have to look after your flip-flops properly," says Lorraine Jones, spokeswoman for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists.
    "Bacteria, particularly fungi, thrive in warm, dark, dank environments, so leaving them to fester in the bottom of a gym bag is asking for trouble. If you wear them when they are dirty and damp, you may as well go barefoot.

    "They'll get really smelly and place you at risk of fungal infections, such as athlete's foot, and a whole host of new bacterial infections when you next wear them.
    "Athlete's foot causes dry, scaly skin, particularly between the toes, and can lead to splits in the heel.
    "It can get worse without treatment and becomes red, inflamed and itchy, particularly when your feet are warm.
    "As fingernails are one of the dirtiest parts of the body, I've seen serious secondary bacterial infections as a result of scratching and breaking the skin."
    Damp flip-flops may also activate Corynebacterium and Micrococcus sedentarius - these are found naturally on the feet, but in damp conditions they become active, causing an unpleasant smell.
    "Even if you wash and dry your feet, the minute you start sweating, the bacteria eats the sweat and excretes waste, giving off a strong odour."
    Preventative action: As soon as you get home from the gym, dry out flip-flops on a bright, sunny windowsill. Sunlight will kill any bacteria that may be lurking.
    Invest in two pairs to ensure you always have a clean, dry pair to take to the gym.
    Wash and dry your feet properly, especially between the toes. Without moist, damp conditions, athlete's foot will be unable to take hold, even if you come into contact with the fungus.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Working out in unsupportive and sweaty shoes carries risk of injury and fungal infection. There are 100 times more yeasts and moulds in old boots and trainers than in a flushed toilet bowl.
    "Running or training shoes should be your biggest outlay after gym fees," says podiatrist Lorraine Jones. "A good pair of trainers will give protection from injury and reduce the occurrence of muscle or joint ache, which can result from poor footwear." Sports shoes also need to be replaced regularly.
    "Most good running shoes use a combination of materials to provide adequate support and cushioning," says Trevor Prior, a consultant podiatric surgeon.
    "But these materials have an effective lifespan after which they do not provide the same support." This can lead to a whole range of injuries, including plantar fasciitis (severe pain in the heel of the foot), knee pain and lower back problems because of additional jarring through the body.
    With each step of a run, you are putting six to eight times your body weight through your joints.
    Preventative action: As a guide, experts recommend buying new trainers every 250 to 500 miles, when cushioning starts to fail or when the shoes show signs of wear.
    "Don't just look at the tread - this is often the last place to go," says Tim Parkin of Asics sports shoes.
    "Look for permanent horizontal creasing on the midsole, aches and pains when you haven't increased mileage or frequency and being able to bend the shoe backwards - toe towards heel."
    Alternating two pairs of running shoes is a good idea. Warm, moist conditions make sports shoes a perfect breeding ground for fungi, so having two pairs will give time to air.
    Allow at least 24 hours for the shoe to dry out the natural sweat.

    If you wear sports shoes outdoors, take care when storing them in your gym bag.
    Dr Anthony Hilton, senior lecturer in microbiology at Aston University, Birmingham, has found that trainers worn outside, where there is animal and bird faeces, can carry bacteria that other people then pick up on their shoes and bags.
    "If you've been running or training outside, put shoes in a separate section in your kit bag and don't use it to store anything else!"
    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Putting your kit bag on the locker room floor may result in you picking up a little more than you bargained for.
    A study of handbags by Dr Charles Gerba, of the University of Arizona, found faecal matter on 30 per cent of bags —=- probably from being placed on the floor of public toilets.
    "We found 100 million bacteria per square inch on some bags," he says.
    "If you get those germs on your fingers, then rub your eyes, nose or mouth, you could get diarrhoea." Studies also show that changing room benches are not much cleaner.
    Inside your kitbag could be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.
    "If you leave damp, sweaty clothes in your bag for three or four days, then microbes will feed on sweat and contaminate your bag, producing all kinds of volatile smells," says Dr Hilton.

    Preventative action: Hang your kit bag on a hook in the locker room. Unpack it as soon as you get home and air after each use. B Buy a machinewashable bag and wash it regularly - preferably weekly.
  3. "which can lead to skin and soft tissue infections, including flesh-eating forms."

    That's really freaky!!! Who shares towels tho...ew. Back off, get your own towel..right? :smile:
  4. I always put my used gym clothes in plastic inside my bag as I sometimes have to carry books and other things that can't take any moisture.

    Who on earth would SHARE TOWELS!? Now that's just DISgusting. I've never heard of such a thing before, it should be obious that it's nasty..
  5. That is bad news for me and all my years of swimming! Interesting, thanks for posting!
  6. Great article. Thanks for posting!
  7. Your welcome everyone. I would think that people know about the towel sharing.

    I'm so fanatical about cleanliness @ the gym. seeing people walking around in bare feet is one of my biggest pet peeves.
  8. :wtf:

    tell me about it..i see girls come out the shower into the bathroom stalls "a la Britney" eckkk they even shower with no sandals how gross.
  9. awesome info prada, thanks!
  10. Seriously, that's asking for warts or athletes foot. :yucky:
  11. Thanks for posting this Prada!

    If anyone has a yoga mat and wants to know how to clean it put it in your bath tub with a little laundry soap. Submerge and soak. You will be amazed at how dirty the water gets. Then rinse a few times. The mat actually becomes stickier!
  12. I got a horrible rash on my back a few years ago and it was from a gym mat that I did situps on (my tank top lifted up a bit when I laid down so the small of my back hit the mat). Now, I won't wear shorts on the machines (yuck!), and I wear t shirts instead of tank tops. and I always lay the same side of the towl over the machine. I'm paranoid now, this rash was gross and the doc said a lot of these rashes come when guys only wear a jock strap and gym shorts and then sweat on the stuff....ew ew ew ew ew
  13. Well, I'm definitely bringing my own yoga mat from now. Yuck!!

    Thanks for sharing!