Your doctor told you to get some exercise, so you go to the gym, but you end up with more than you bargained for. Fitness facilities can be icky germ factories. I’m armed with tips on how to get fit without getting sick.
Breeding Grounds for a Wide Variety of Germs
Fitness studios or gyms may be places to get healthy, but they’re also breeding grounds for a host of germs — particularly Staphylococcus bacteria or “staph”.
A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found 25 different categories of bacteria lurking in fitness centers.
Why Germs Thrive
Cold and flu season will be creeping up on us again soon, so beware of those coughers and sneezers who can quickly spread viruses from one treadmill to the next.
But… the majority of germs that people pick up at their favorite fitness studio are those that affect the skin.
Bacteria, fungi, and viruses that cause skin infections thrive in SWEAT. Warm, moist areas are particularly problematic.
Sweat gets left behind on:
Exercise equipment (from rowers to reformers, weights, and boxing gloves to basketballs), mats, and machines
Saunas, showers, swimming pool decks
Locker room benches, toilet/door handles
The Most Common Germs
The following skin problems are the most common ones you can pick up at a fitness facility:
Fungi (pronounced “fun-guy”) reproduce through tiny spores in the air. That means, you can inhale the spores or they can land on you! As a result, fungal infections often begin in your lungs or on your skin. That means they’re easy to get and PASS AROUND.
Fungi, the plural for fungus, live and reproduce in the air, in soil and water, on plants… and on YOU. Those embarrassing health conditions mentioned above are caused by an excessive amount of fungus growing on the surface of your skin. Think of that fuzzy green mold that grows on decaying old fruit hiding in the back of your frig or the mildew that grows on shower walls. Same idea.
Only half of them are harmful, but they can be annoying, ITCHY and difficult to kill. If you have a circulation problem, weakened immune system, diabetes, or take antibiotics, you may be more likely to get a fungal infection. (Antibiotics may disrupt the balance of natural microflora in your system which causes fungi to overpopulate.) It’s important to get treatment at the first sign of a problem.
2. Hot-Tub Rash
When levels of disinfectants (like chlorine) are too low in swimming pools and hot tubs, you can get an itchy red rash from the bacteria that you pick up.
3. Plantar Warts
This virus infects feet, so don’t go barefoot in the locker room, gym showers, or exercise studios.
4. Impetigo (im-pe-TEE-go)
This HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS infection is caused by a staph or strep bacteria.
It gets into your body through broken skin (a cut, scrape or insect bite).
Transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, contaminated towels, and sports equipment.
Studies show that those who regularly used sunscreens were more likely to burn than those who did not. I explain why and what to do about it with KRON 4 Morning News Anchor, Marty Gonzalez.
Why Sunscreen Users Burn
Possible reasons for this finding* are that sunscreen users:
May have a false sense of security.
Justify staying outdoors loner.
Don’t follow label directions properly.
*National Health Interview Survey of 31,000 Americans recently published in JAMA Dermatology.
Commonly Missed Spots
The most commonly overlooked areas when it comes to applying sunscreen are the most vulnerable to skin cancer. These body parts are exposed to the sun almost daily and not covered up during the colder months.
Scalp: Use an oil-free sunscreen (least greasy option for hair) if you’re bald, shave your head, and on your part.
Ears: Cancer occurs frequently on the ears.
Eyelids: Cancers often develop on the skin around the eyes. Difficult to protect with sunscreen if you don’t want lotion in your eyes. Wear wrap-around sunglasses with UV-blocking lenses.
Lips: One of the highest risk areas for squamous cell cancer. When they develop on the lips, there is the highest chance of spreading and 35% chance of recurrence. RISK OF DEATH could be as high as 15%.
Hands: If you wash your hands after applying sunscreen, the backs of your hands end up with zero sun protection. Must reapply sunscreen onto backs of your hands after washing them (that includes after using the restroom too). Remember… when driving, the backs of your hands, arms, and face are highly exposed to UVA aging rays. Glass filters out only one kind of radiation — UVB rays.
Back of the neck: This is a high-risk zone for basal and squamous cell cancer. Even if your have long hair, it needs sunscreen.
Back: According to the American Cancer Society, men are particularly at high risk of developing deadly melanoma on their backs. The back is a difficult area to apply sunscreen and often leads to severe sunburns.
ALERT!If you’ve had five or more blistering sunburns, your risk of melanoma is increased by 80% and your risk of non-melanoma skin cancer is increased by 68%.
Feet: If wearing sandals or have bare feet, your skin can burn easily. Apply sunscreen to tops of the feet.
Date and Shake Your Sunscreen
Mark the date that you opened the sunscreen with a waterproof marker if there is no expiration date. Sunscreens are meant to maintain their original potency for 3 years.
Shake it (even if the directions don’t say to) to distribute the active ingredients throughout the product.
How much sleep do you need? Many working Americans sleep too little, but did you know you can sleep too much? According to studies on sleep and mortality, insufficient AND excessive sleep can shorten your life.
*Healing and repairing cells, tissues, and blood vessels help build bone and muscle mass.
Lack of Sleep: Immediate and Long-term Health Effects
Numerous studies have linked a high intake of red meat or processed meats to colon cancer. KRON 4 Morning News Weekend anchor, Marty Gonzalez, has me explain why eating animal protein and fat are to blame.
Bile is to Blame
Bile assists with digestion by breaking down fats. Think of bile as “Mother Nature’s degreaser”. This greenish yellow secretion is made and released by the liver, then concentrated and stored in the gallbladder until fat enters your small intestine.
Bile acids stimulate the growth of bacteria, which convert the primary bile acids into secondary bile acids.
Bile acids, particularly secondary bile acids, have long been suspected as being cancer-causing.
Eating more fat means more fat and bile acids in the colon.
High Saturated Fats in the Diet
A high intake of saturated fat is associated with high levels of bile, which is usually evident in colon cancer patients.
High saturated fats + high levels of bile are factors that produce colorectal cancer tumors.
Meat Sources High in Saturated Fat
Meat – e.g., fatty cuts of beef, pork, lamb
Processed / deli meats – salami, sausages, chicken skin
Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night? If so, caffeine could be keeping you awake even though you never consume it at night. That’s because caffeine has a longer-lasting effect than you may think.
Negative Health Effects of Insomnia
Caffeine disrupts deep (restorative) sleep and the ability to fall asleep which cuts down on total sleep time resulting in:
Increased mortality — According to a study by the American Cancer Society (Mortality Associated with Sleep Duration and Insomnia), insufficient sleep can shorten your life. Causes of death associated with sleep duration include heart disease, stroke, and breast/colon cancer.
Why Caffeine Has a Lasting Effect (Half-Life Explained)
Caffeine has a half life of five to six hours. In other words, it takes five to six hours for the amount of caffeine in your body to be reduced to exactly one-half of its concentration. (Translation: the amount of caffeine remaining in your body after six hours is equal to the amount you excrete.)
How It Breaks Down
The half-life of caffeine in a healthy adult is six hours. This does not take into consideration half-life variables (see below) that can influence how fast/slow a person metabolizes caffeine.
Due to the half-life of caffeine, caffeine starts accumulating in your body when you consume it throughout the day. This could be in the form of another drink, food, or even medication.
For example, if you drink two cups of coffee every day at 8:00 AM, by Day 3 at 2:00 AM nearly 45 gmof caffeine could still be in your system.
To compound the caffeinated effect, if you drink anothercup of coffee at 2:00 PM as an afternoon pick-me-up, by Day 3 at 2:00 AM, nearly 90 gmof caffeine could still be in your system. That’s nearly the amount of caffeine in a 16-oz Frappuccino® — a clue as to why you may not be able to sleep well.