How Well do You Know Your Gym? Cleanliness and Hygiene

Gyms are the place we go to improve our health and fitness and yet the high volume of traffic means that there is an increased risk of coming into contact with viruses, bacteria and fungus, all of which can be extremely detrimental to our health. The global pandemic has reinforced the issue of hygiene in gyms even further. Customers will, quite rightly have questions over the cleanliness of their gym and will consider this a priority when choosing a preferred gym. A study by the IHRSA found that a gym that was considered to be unclean had a fall in customer satisfaction from 83% to 43% and this led to retention rates dropping from 90% to 52%. 

Is Gym Hygiene Really a Problem? 
Several studies have found high quantities of viruses and bacteria on gym surfaces including equipment, floors and countertops. Weight equipment was particularly contaminated with viruses. A 2014 US study found that there was more bacteria on gym surfaces than the average toilet seat. 

What Should You Look for When Asking About Cleanliness in a Gym? 

Cleaning removes harmful viruses and bacteria but it doesn't kill them. Specialised products are required to kill germs. Disinfectant will eliminate up to 100% of harmful germs on surfaces. Sanitiser will lower the number of germs on surfaces but it will not be as effective as a disinfectant. Both types of product can be in the form of disposable wipes or a spray. Some products do this without bleach or other harmful chemicals which can damage the surface of gym equipment. Sanitiser is more effective if it contains alcohol but this can irritate the skin. It is important to consider the wet time for a product to ensure that germs have had enough time to be killed. 

Cleaning Schedule 
Every gym should have a cleaning schedule that is adhered to by all members of staff including fitness and personal trainers. Staff require training to ensure they understand the implications of following the guidelines. Schedules should be tracked for frequency and completion. 

  • Wash hands first. 
  • Wear Personal protective equipment such as gloves. 
  • Disinfect surfaces with wipes which must be wiped in one singular direction to prevent recontamination. 
  • A spray may be used and left on the surface for the recommended time. 
  • PPE and wipes should be disposed of carefully and hands should be rewashed. 

Gym Users 
As well as staff following the cleaning schedule it is important that a gym communicates to customers about their responsibility towards keeping the environment safe. There should be clear guidelines with visual reminders around the workout space and changing rooms. Staff should intervene when they see rules being broken. Some people may choose to stick to their own local gym, i.e if an individual was living in York, they would visit their local Gym in York, as they may trust the owner and employees working their as oppose to travelling farther out of town. General hygiene practice should include: 

  • Wash and sanitise hands 
  • Wipe down machines and mats before and after use 
  • Use a towel to protect equipment and mats. 
  • Ask users to stay away if they are ill. 
  • A gym can help promote this by installing sanitiser stations, providing wipes and towels. 

The good news is that COVID has really highlighted the issue of cleanliness and gyms have made huge investments to ensure that their customers feel safe and protected when visiting the gym. Staff are far more aware of good practice with regards to hygiene and customers themselves are likely to take on more responsibility for their and other's health.