2013 Flu Epidemic: Are Health Clubs Responding??

by Dr. Bruce on January 13, 2013

“Flu reaches epidemic level in U.S., says CDC”

Just a quick post of  concern regarding the epidemic levels of seasonal flu that are being reported on and through most every news outlet every day.  Seasonal flu outbreaks are quite normal this time of year–affecting many people in almost every state in the US–but the reports state that the number of reported cases is significantly up this year.  The good news is that we are supposed to be about half-way through the flu season; the bad news is that we still have about half of the season (another six weeks or so) to go.

No need to speculate on the cause.  Flu happens!  But, from my viewpoint I just wanted to reinforce the need for fitness facilities–across the US–to make every effort to protect the health and safety of their most precious and valuable commodity–their members!!

From a professional and personal level, I can’t stress enough the need for health and fitness facilities to present to their members the cleanest and safest workout environments possible.  Regular and thorough cleaning and sanitizing of body contact surfaces  is vital: Exercisers do not go to the gym to get sick; they go to get healthy.  But, if cardio. and strength machines, mats, group exercise bikes, etc. are not thoroughly and regularly sanitized–during this most “fragile” and potentially deadly (no need to quote the number of people who die from the flu each year) time period–the potential to pick up an unwanted virus/illness at the gym is significantly increased.

Personally, my most specific area of concern for gym-cleanliness focuses on the “machines.”  I do not care to touch any surface of any machine that has not been sanitized after its last use (before my use).  I want to protect against “innocent transmission!!”  (Especially) at this time of year the last user of a machine may have unknowingly left a viral calling-card on the machine that could be transmitted to me by merely touching the same uncleaned surface they had just touched.  Of course, I am aware that transmission probably also requires that I touch an area of transmission-entry into my body–such as my eyes, nose of mouth–to make the (potential for) transmission complete.  But, that could “innocently” happen with an act as simple as wiping that rolling bead of sweat out of my eye (area) or off my nose, etc.

So, be 100% guaranteed that when I go to my gym later today, I will be spraying and wiping every surface I touch on every machine I use, both before and after use!!!  I will also make every effort to NOT touch any part of my face-area with my hands, and I will sanitize my hands upon leaving the facility.  That’s prevention–gym style.

The health and fitness facility industry should be a role model for all community-use facilities: Present as clean and safe a “product” as is humanly possible.  The entire gym should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized on a daily basis.  AND, the cleaning and sanitizing supplies for members (and staff–including personal trainers) to sanitize equipment surfaces before and after each use should be plentiful and easily accessible in every corner of the gym.  AND, AND it would be helpful if gym management and managers would post informative signage reminding everyone of their responsibility of keeping the gym clean and safe, and offer a friendly reminder to those who aren’t complying–to “clean up their act”– as they do their routine walks through the facility.

I’ve said it before, but now is one of those times when the following phrase bears repeating:  Make Cleaning a Team Sport. Both staff and members need to be teammates in this effort.

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