beauty

Why you should avoid the communal yoga mats at your gym

Image via Thinkstock.

Podiatrist Laura Gleich writes.

The local gym, pilates and yoga studios are home to many different bugs and pathogens that we can pick up. Tinea Pedis, also known as Athlete’s Foot, thrives in moist, damp environments, which is why gym mats can be the perfect breeding ground for these microbes.

The average mat has been known to contain up to 100,000 bacteria per cubic centimetre and they can survive for days if the mat is left uncleaned.

The average mat has been known to contain up to 100,000 bacteria per cubic centimetre and they can survive for days if the mat is left uncleaned. A lot of people try to remember to wear thongs in the communal showers and swimming pools, and wipe down gym equipment before and after use, but many people wouldn’t even consider the germs that can be on the shared gym mats and even their own yoga mat.

Whilst most gyms will say they regularly wipe down their mats, many classes cross over and you are coming in to close proximity to one another, sweating and touching multiple surfaces throughout your time at the gym. Try to remember to at least wipe down the shared mat before you use it, if possible.


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Bringing your own yoga mat can help protect you from a lot of germs but you own mat still comes in contact with the floor. If you don’t have a two toned mat, it’s a good idea to mark one side and always have that side facing up.

With your own mat, you know exactly who has used it, where it has been and when it was last cleaned. It is a good idea to wipe down your mat with a handi-wipe or some form of alcohol wipe after each use. Wiping your mat with warm soapy water isn’t quite effective enough but a good scrub with it is still better than doing nothing at all. Make sure you also hang up your mat after wiping it to ensure it dries properly before being put away.

If you think about it, why would you want to move around on a sweaty mixture of microbes from complete strangers? For the sake of $10-20 I would invest the money into buying my own mat and some handi-wipes to minimise the risk of contracting Athlete’s Foot and the discomfort that comes along with it.

Editor’s note: as bacteria will multiply wherever there is a warm and moist environment it’s hard to pin point the exact cause of problems like Athlete’s Foot.  But we won’t be risking it from now on.