Most gyms are crawling with germs. One study found that 75 percent of weight equipment was contaminated with cold-causing rhinoviruses, and even wiping surfaces down twice didn’t completely remove the germs.
The truth is sniffles are the least of your worries according to Jack Foley, director of sports medicine at Lehigh University and coauthor of the National Athletics Trainers’ Association Report on Skin Infections. Bacteria, fungi, and viruses easily survive in moist spots at the gym like damp locker rooms, public benches, laundry linen bags, towels, and sweaty dirty mats.
Following are five ideas gym owners and operators can do to combat gym germs:
- Lessen your exposure to germs by providing Purell or other sanitizing dispensers or disinfectant wipes around the gym. Make it easy to access and dispense.
- Rethink your gym-provided towels. Are your towels and linens professionally laundered? Are they in good condition? Are they transported to your laundry service and delivered in the same laundry bags?
- Ensure your laundry service cleans your gym towels in hot water and finishes with professional quality hot dryers. Outbreaks of MRSA and other viruses can be associated with “clean towels” that carry bacteria as a result of poor laundering procedures.
- Educate your staff on proper handling and storage of linens and towels. Bacteria can easily be transferred to towels if not handled or stored properly.
- Manage towel inventory. Many gyms and health clubs utilize towel tracking systems to manage inventory and loss. Equinox Sports Club budgets for towel theft. They figure, for every 25 people who walk through the door, two will walk out with a towel. Their solution was a towel tracker. Gym members have a towel tracker card, and they have it scanned to get a clean towel when they arrive at the gym. This type of system keeps track of how many towels a customer has and if they get returned. Another device catching on with gyms is an anti-theft tag. If the towel is taken out the door, a pleasant sound is activated to remind the member they have a towel or linens in their possession and need to drop it in the laundry bin.