Question for Gym/YMCA Frequenters

Speaking to a friend at the Y this morning, I mentioned that I usually get sick/catch a cold maybe once a year. However, the last year or so it’s been more frequent, maybe 3 or 4 relatively minor colds. His observation was that about a year and a half ago I added an hour of free weights to my normal aerobic exercises, the implication being I’m picking up bacteria/viruses living on the equipment. Considering the hundreds of people using this equipment every day, it sounds very plausible.

Assuming this to be true, is there something I could wipe the bars/handles with that would kill the bugs living there? I’d like to have something I could put on a work out towel that would last an hour as it would look a little weird/paranoid to carry around a can of Lysol.

The gym I went to had pre-treated moist towlette dispensers all over the place for exactly this kind of thing. Maybe you could ask the place to install some?

The YMCA where I go has several big tubs of alcohol wipes, and people are strongly encouraged to use them to wipe down equipment after use.

Whether that has any effect at all, I have no idea, but it’s the social norm at my Y to do so.

It is courteous to wipe the equipment down AFTER your work-out. It is prudent to wipe the equipment down BEFORE your work-out.

I work out obsessively and I rarely get sick. The last time I got sick was 2 years ago, and it was definitely not from the gym, as my roommate was sick and I caught it just as he was getting better. If anything, working out should improve your immune system.

That said, you can catch stuff from equipment, but that’s most likely to be things like ringworm, athlete’s foot, etc. Most gyms provide some form of sanitation, which, as TheoS says, is polite with which to wipe down with when you’re done, and prudent to do beforehand.

Beyond that, I’d suggest a few other things. First, do NOT touch your face, eyes, nose, mouth, or anything else with your hands. If you need to, wash your hands first. Especially for using the restroom, wash your hands BEFORE you use and again after. And, of course, make sure you wash your hands and possible your face and the like after as well if you’re not immediately jumping in the shower. Be careful with reusing drinking containers for carrying water or gatorade, it can easily grow bateria or mold in it over night if it’s not clean and dry.

Maybe it’s just me, but I sweat a lot*** more ***while using the aerobic equipment than I do while using the weights. (I wipe down both types of equipment after using them, and there’s just a lot more sweat present to wipe off the aerobic equipment.)

I don’t pre-wipe the equipment before using it, but I do notice that a lot of others do - and its almost always the aerobic equipment that they pre-wipe.

The following has no scintific significance, but I thought I would share
it anyway. I have worked out with free weights in YMCAs in five different
states, and have never once seen anyone swab a barbell with a towlette
or other santitizing agent.

For about 17 years ca.1973-89 I worked out an average of several times
a week, and I believe I was sick enough to have to stay home from work
on exactly three occasions. 1990-2001 I did not touch a weight except for
a four-month period in 1992. I was sick enough to stay home from work
on exactly one occasion in those 12 years.

2001-2006 I resumed weighlifting intermittently, and also did pushups on
a carpeted floor, and pullups. I did not get sick once.

My take is that the bugs on barbells hazard is probably not all that great.
With so many people using them someone should have noticed the
relatively delicate health of the iron-pumping demographic, if in fact
their equipment was making them get sick. I expect doors pose a much
greater hazard. However, now that the idea is implanted in me, I may
be more fastidious about towlette usage if I ever go back to weightlifting.