How To Avoid Getting Sick At The Gym When Germs Are Everywhere

Whenever you're making #gains at the gym, you're likely coming in contact with copious amounts of #germs in the process, especially during the cold-infused holiday season. I don't know about you, but personally, I can literally feel germs circulating in the stagnant air of my fitness center whenever I'm squeezing in a sweat sesh lately, and TBH... it's disgusting. There are, however, ways to avoid getting sick at the gym so that you don't have to ditch your beloved workouts in the name of maintaining your health (because, uh, how ironic would that be?).

From locker rooms, to exercise mats, to cardio machines, to towels, gyms are literally a playground of bacteria. And it's not just germs that can cause a pesky, common cold. Philip Tierno Jr., PhD, a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU Medical School and the author of The Secret Life of Germs told Fitness Magazine that there can even be microbes like MRSA (an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can result in dangerous skin infections if you come in contact with it) lurking in your fitness center.

From the flu to colds to objectionable infections, let's just say that your local gym probably isn't the cleanest place to be and, sadly, it's a lot easier to get sick during the holidays when everyone's out and about. But that doesn't mean you have to abandon ship. Here are seven ways you can avoid getting sick at the gym this season, even when it feels like germs are legit everywhere.

Consider The Flu Vaccine

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According to Dr. Gustavo Ferrer, MD FCCP, a pulmonologist, founder of the Cleveland Clinic Florida Cough Clinic, Interstitial Lung Disease and president of Intensive Care Experts, getting your flu shot is essential in order to protect yourself from nasty germs that circulate at the gym.

If you're able to, consider getting vaccinated as a precautionary measure (both in and out of the gym). And don't worry, fam, you can totally exercise after you get your flu vaccine — there's essentially no risk factors, you'll just be a whole lot safer than if you were working out unvaccinated.

Wash Your Hands Frequently

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Ferrer also recommends washing your hands frequently in order to avoid getting sick at the gym, so don't be shy with taking trips to the bathroom in between machines or with pumping those hand sanitizer dispensers if your gym provides them.

And according to the Center for Young Women's Health, you should be lathering the soap over the entire surface area of your hands and making sure to wash your hands for about 20 seconds, at least.

Load Up On Fruits And Veggies

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Ferrer tells me that being bountiful when it comes to your fruit and veggie consumption can work wonders when it comes to warding off illnesses that you might have come in contact with at the gym. And while you're at it, try these foods to boost your brain health, because #BrainGains are important too, you know.

Prioritize Sleep

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"Don’t forget about good sleep," Ferrer reminds. "[That means] seven to eight hours each night." The doctor stresses the importance of proper shut-eye, especially when you're trying to strengthen your immune system going into a place as germ infused as the gym.

Try going to sleep and waking up at a consistent time each day, if you can, in order to improve the quality of your sleep and, in turn, your overall health.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

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Drinking eight glasses of water a day (or 64 ounces) can definitely seem daunting, but Ferrer says it's a total game changer when it comes to preventing and fighting of sickness.

Try to remember to bring a water bottle with you whenever you leave the house and to be sipping on it before, during, and after your workouts.

Wipe Down Mats/Machines Before (And After) You Use Them

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"Gym equipment can be breeding grounds for bacteria," Dr. Aaron Glatt, a physician with Mercy Medical Center on Long Island told USA TODAY. So, don't forget to wipe down your mats and any equipment you come in contact with before you use them (and after!) Be courteous, peeps.

Bring Your Own Towel

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"The most important thing is to be aware. If something doesn't sound hygienic or look hygienic, it's probably not hygienic," Glatt told USA TODAY. I mean, as "hygienic" as the towels that you get for free at your gym might seem, you might not want to risk it in terms of getting sick. Consider bringing your own, just to be safe.