According to Certified Personal Trainer Jennipher Walters, health clubs, gyms, and yoga studios are the ideal breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria, thanks to people coming in and out, touching multiple surfaces of equipment, and sweating in close proximity to each other.
A study done by Today found that antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus lives not just on the gym’s resistance machines and dumbbells, but on exercise mats as well. “Yoga mats are a hotbed of contamination, literally and figuratively,” Dr. Robert Lahita, chairman of medicine and vice president of the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, told Fox News Magazine.
People who use exercise mats expose their skin, a carrier of organisms, directly to the mat. As for yoga practitioners, they tend to expose to the mat the waxier, oiler parts of their bodies, such as the back, chest, feet, and forehead.
While contamination is more likely in communal yoga mats and public exercise mats, does bringing your own personal mat make it safer? According to Lahita, the mat owner is still at risk. “If you had an infection, then cured the infection and proceeded to get back on your yoga mat…you could probably get that same staph back into your skin,” he told Fox News Magazine. There’s also the additional hazard of plopping your mat on the gym floor, which is a breeding ground of bacteria from people’s feet, sweat, and other dirt.
According to a study by Women’s Health, three-fourths of weight equipment is contaminated with cold-causing rhinoviruses, and wiping the surfaces don’t completely get rid of the gym germs. But catching the common cold should be the least of your worries. The study also showed that staph infections and skin infections can be contracted if a cut or scrape on your skin comes in contact with the bacteria.
How to protect yourself:
1. Invest in your own personal mat. Avoid sharing it with other people. It’s like lending someone your t-shirt off your back and then wearing it immediately after the borrower sweats on it.
2. If you prefer using the communal mat, spray it with hand sanitizer or mat spray. If you have disinfecting wipes, use that before and after your session.
3. Use a towel. Because spraying the mat won’t make it completely bacteria-free, layer the mat with a long towel. It limits your skin’s direct contact with the mat and absorbs your sweat and grime. There are non-slip yoga mat towels available at yoga and pilates stores.
4. Clean your personal mat regularly. Aside from wiping it after each class, give your mat a bath occasionally. Soak it in mild detergent and water, and give it a gentle scrub before rinsing.
5. Make sure your mat is dry before rolling it up. A damp rolled mat is a potential breeding ground for bacteria.
6. Practice good gym hygiene to avoid spreading germs.
7. Apply hand sanitizer before and after each session.