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Eyeopener Staff

It’s five o’clock on a Monday in January, the RAC’s second busiest month. More than 30 people are grunting, sweating, pushing, pulling and lifting in the weight room. Of those 30 weight lifters and calorie shedders, close to 20 are laying or sitting on benches or mats for their workout–but only three are using towels.

Sweaty backs, bums, legs and arms leave sticky imprints for the next person to enjoy. What is in these sweaty imprints may sound disgusting; it might also be contagious. Is it possible that there is something lurking on the weights, the bike, or the elliptical machine you can’t see? Bridget Coila, who writes for American Fitness, reported that researchers have found “E.coli, strep-bacteria, and the influenza virus in gyms and on athletic equipment.”

“Bacteria can only be transferred by direct contact between individuals,” said Doctor Tony Mazzulli of the Department of Microbiology at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. “Fortunately, most of the bacteria transferred this way do not lead to infection in the contact.”

Elliott Minardi, a second-year Radio and Television Arts student, said he would never touch his hands to his face while working out because of the dirt on the weights.

“It’s pretty evident. When I wash my hands after working out, the water is grey,” Minardi said.

Sweat is also something to be aware of, said Professor Maire Percy at the University of Toronto’s Department of Physiology.

“Infections are in sweat, (anything on skin), nose drops, saliva, urine, feces.” Research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that one of the ways SARS can be passed on is through sweat. In 2000, Medical researchers in Denmark discovered body sweat is also a perfect thriving ground for superbugs, a type of bugs resistant to antibiotics.

Your nine lines of germ defence
1. Wash your hands immediately after working out, and don’t put them anywhere near your face before you do.
2. Use a towel instead of your hand to wipe sweat from your face.
3. Use a towel to wipe down the equipment before and after use.It should be a different than the face towel.
4. Never let your bare feet touch the washroom floor.
5. Wear flip-flops in RAC showers.
6. Wear gloves while lifting weights.
7. Wash your workout clothes regularly.
8. If you aren’t feeling well, take a few days off from exercising.

Others won’t thank you when they get sick from using your gym. The real threats are people who are sick with a cold or the flu, Mazzulli said.

If such a person were to rub their nose then pick up a weight, their contagions have been transferred to the weight. Anyone who then touches the weights is risking illness, according to Mazzulli. However, Mazzulli emphasized that “…germs are everywhere in the environment.”

RAC Fitness Coordinator Nino Robles is aware of the importance of maintaining a sanitary environment for students and faculty to work out in, not only for health reasons. “It helps maintain the equipment to clean itdaily,” Robles said. The RAC does have a regular cleaning schedule for each and every piece of equipment.

“Something that people are touching daily will get cleaned by staff daily. Stretch mats get cleaned three times a day and the cardio equipment is cleaned daily…dumbbells and barbells, every other day,” he said. Minardi said that he has witnessed the RAC being cleaned.

“I have seen them here, closing and wiping down the mats and machines.” Robles said that most of the sanitizing is done first thing in the morning and at the days end.

Currently the RAC is using Sunlight dish soap to sanitize because it is the only thing that doesn’t break down the upholstery, stability balls and grips on the machines. Robles is not satisfied with the Sunlight.

“We are currently searching for a new solution. I’m not completely happy with what we have now,” he said. Joshua Dabrowa, a fourth-year Retail Management student, is happy with the weight room, but takes issue with the RAC washroom.

“Where you go and pee, it smells. Even if they do clean it, they need to clean it more often,” Dabrowa said.

Claire Stevenson, a second-year Interior Design student, thinks the RAC should provide spray bottles and towels, especially for the cardio-room, with signs instructing patrons to wash the equipment after use.

Robles also said that the RAC is currently trying to set up two stations in the facility with spray bottles and towels for people to go and get whenever they want to make sure something is clean.

If you have any other ideas or complaints, the RAC has their suggestion box outside the entrance to the weight room.

Its location is convenient for complainers with germ issues; they don’t actually have to go in the room itself.

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