If the headlines are to be believed, rather than improving your health, going to the gym could make you ill - Can this be true?
In the vast majority of cases the answer is, of course, 'no'. But there are some facts exercisers should be aware of, regardless of where they are working out. Our new research looks at what we call 'fitness etiquette' - safe and appropriate behaviour in fitness environments. Why? Because all exercisers should be supported in achieving their health and fitness goals.
Almost three quarters of UK adults who exercise at least occasionally told us they have personally experienced or witnessed what they would term bad gym-place etiquette. This covers a raft of fitness faux pas - ranging from not putting equipment back after using it to shaving in the jacuzzi - which make the experience of working out less enjoyable for everyone. A similar proportion told us they want gyms to take action to improve behaviour. But, what worried us most was that almost a quarter are put off exercising due to fitness etiquette violations that are easily avoidable - like excessive nudity in changing rooms.
In a country where we are well on our way to having an obesity epidemic, we can't afford for people who are actively trying to get fitter and healthier to be deterred from doing so just because some people are unsure what is and isn't the right, safe way to behave when exercising.
The research also highlighted our stereotypically British approach to tackling, or not tackling as the case may be, bad etiquette when we encounter it. When people don't wipe sweat off equipment or treat fitness facilities like a hotel, it annoys the vast majority of exercisers. However, less than a quarter do anything about it. Reasons listed include being too embarrassed to confront offenders or report negative behaviour to gym staff, or simply thinking that speaking up wouldn't change anything.
Finally, the research looked at hygiene, and it's here where the risk of the spread of infection can potentially come into the equation. Sweating is a normal part of exercise, helping the body cool down. But where sweat is allowed to fester or is transferred on to gym equipment and then not cleaned after use, problems can occur, it doesn't always just cause bad odours. More than a third of people we surveyed admitted to exercising without deodorant or socks on while 16 per cent don't wash their gym kit between workouts. It's not surprising then that almost a quarter of gym goers have had to move to a different part of the gym to escape the overpowering body odour of another exerciser. For a healthy, happy gym experience, it's best to wipe equipment down after use, not exercise with a cold, wash kit between each workout and not share items like towels and water bottles.
It's our job to encourage people to think about the health implications of their exercise behaviour - both good and bad. We want to encourage everyone in the UK to take control of their own wellbeing by helping tackle the barriers that can prevent people getting fitter and healthier. To do our little bit, we've worked with gym goers and health and fitness professionals to compile a guide to fitness etiquette. Take a read and tell us what you think.