Exercise Mat Risks
Table of Contents
10:00 AM - December 14, 2014 by Bob Hannum
Bad News - Exercise Mats Are a Serious Health Risk! Good News - There's an Easy Solution!
Clean Your Exercise Mat
Exercise mats are known hosts for common cold and flu viruses, as well as fungal, viral, and bacterial organisms that can cause skin infections. The best defense is not only to use your own mat but also to clean your mat – both sides – after every use whether you bring your own or borrow one from your gym. A variety of mat disinfectants are now available – click here for all-natural and DIY options.
In an article by Abbey Ellin which appeared in The New York Times, she writes about Dr. Cohen, a podiatrist at Long Island College Hospital, and his observation of a rise in foot infections which he connects to the increasing popularity of exercise classes and the use of exercise mats. It’s a sobering article with a clear message: clean your mat regularly even if you don't borrow it!
She also does some fine investigative reporting about exercise studios and their best intentions when it comes to cleaning their mats. What she found is that they rarely follow thru. The message once again is clean your mat.
Keep A Perspective
But let's also keep this in perspective. In over 35 years of teaching Pilates classes I have never once heard a student complain of a foot infection. And mats are not the only risky things we use in our everyday lives. Door handles, restaurant menus, hand bags (how many times have yours touched a restroom floor?), and shopping carts (another pair of hands wheel that cart every 1/2 hour), are among the most germ infested objects on earth!
Additionally, exercise mats are not the only gym equipment we need to be concerned about! An excellent report by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) reviews all the germ risks found in gyms. There are actually other items in your gyms that pose greater health risks than exercise mats, such as all the ellipticals, treadmills and other cardio machines used by many people in succession. Then there’s the other gym equipment handled by many throughout the day such as universal machines and free weights.
Be wise. Be safe. Clean your mat.