The gross truths lurking at the gym and public swimming pools

The gross truths hidden behind doors of gyms and public swimming pools might make you think twice about working up a sweat at your regular fitness centre.

Ever took a dip at the gym or public pool, and sniffed that distinctive tang of chlorine, knowing that it means everything is clean? Think again.

The smell of chlorine actually becomes more pungent when there’s dirt in the water – and some organisms are chlorine-resistant.

Health authorities advise swimmers to keep their mouths shut and avoid swallowing pool water to prevent swallowing bacteria. Source: AP, file

Cryptosporidium is responsible for many diarrhoea outbreaks – and can be transmitted via swimming pool water.

Health authorities advise swimmers to keep their mouths shut and avoid swallowing pool water.

But that’s far from the only health risk you face in the average gym. From vaginal yeast on benches to antibiotic-resistant infections on weights, here’s some of the hidden risks.

The gym equipment

The good news is that most gym weights have clear instructions that each user should wipe them down after using them.

The bad news is that plenty of people completely ignore this advice.

Gym weights are breeding grounds for bacteria. Source: Getty, file

The result is that many weights racks are breeding grounds for bacteria, and other “shared” areas of the gym can be even worse, with antibiotic-resistant bacteria present.

“I’ve even found MRSA on an exercise ball in a gym,” says Dr Philip Tierno, author of The Secret Life of Germs.

Your water bottle

Many reusable gym water bottles show traces of ‘coliform’ bacteria – the sort that’s found in human faeces – due to people’s poor hand-washing habits.

Research by Treadmill Reviews found many gym bottles are actually dirtier than dog bowls.

The yoga mat

You might not feel quite as serene when stretching out on a gym mat if you were aware of what else was living there.

Medical experts say goya mats are breeding grounds for viruses and funguses. Source: Getty, file

Cold and flu germs can live happily for hours outside the body, and you may well be lying in other people’s germs, experts have warned.

“If you swab a yoga mat you probably are going to pick up viruses and certainly funguses,” said Dr Seth Rankin, a GP and chief executive of the London Doctors Clinic.

The towels

After all that sweating, there’s nothing better than plunging your face into a nice fluffy towel,
right?

Sadly, gym towels aren’t regulated by the same rules that apply to, say, hotels – meaning that the gym’s own towels could be a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria.

Dr Ron Cutler, an MRSA expert at the University of London strongly advised gym-goers to bring their own towel.

“In hospitals, you know that bedding and towels are cleaned to a certain level, but in a gym you have no idea.”