It should come as no shock that exercising on a regular basis exposes you to a number of germs and can chafe your skin. If you’ve ever experienced exercise rash from wearing tight gym costumes that you don’t wash often enough, you can attest to the fact that exercising can get pretty gross pretty quickly. Take these precautions to avoid exercise rash and other common skin ailments that come about due to improper workout hygiene.
Skin Infection From Inadequately Cleaned Gym Equipment
If you belong to a gym that’s even moderately popular, chances are somebody has used whatever piece of equipment you’re on without cleaning it afterwards. Whatever was on their hands, backs or butts is now in contact with your hands, back or butt.
Most gyms provide canisters of wipes for you to sanitize equipment before using it. Be sure to do so. And then wipe off any surface that your skin or sweat came in contact with. It’s more than just good etiquette – it’s a public health necessity.
Also be sure not to touch your face until after you’ve washed your hands post-workout.
If you exercise in really hot and/or humid places, it can cause problems for your skin. If your sweat ducts swell up and get blocked off due to the heat, you can develop heat rash.
Heat rash looks like acne, and pops up in folds of skin and areas where there’s a lot of friction between you and your clothing. Nasty.
If you need to exercise in the heat, because you’re a masochist or just because it’s the only option, it behooves you to periodically stop to rest. Preferably in the shade, or somewhere with the AC blasting. It will help not only with heat rash but also will help prevent heat stroke, a significantly worse condition. Worry about pushing yourself to the limit some other, cooler, day.
Spending a lot of time in the sun can create some pretty severe and unsightly problems for you, if you don’t wear an adequate amount of sunscreen. UV radiation can cause skin cancer and something called “hyperpigmentation,” in which excess melanin pools in your skin, causing dark splotches. Benign, but weird looking.
If you exercise outdoors, it’s absolutely mandatory that you apply sunscreen beforehand. Minimum of SPF 30, and renewed every two hours. Even on cloudy days. Pick a water-resistant sunscreen if you’re worried about sweat flushing it out.
Acne From Workout Clothes
Since it’s generally frowned upon to work out in public gyms without a shirt on, people invented the next-best thing: skintight workout clothes. Sure, they’re flattering. But your leg up in the gym beauty pageant may put you at risk for developing body acne.
Even if your hyper-super-duper-high-tech gym shirt “wicks” moisture at warp speeds, there is still going to be a layer of sweat between your skin and your clothing. It’s exactly the kind of neighborhood bacteria like to raise their families in.
There are a few ways to avoid this problem. The simplest is just to wear normal workout clothes. You don’t need to look like Solid Snake to get fit.
Also be sure to shower right after you work out. This shortens the bacteria’s window to multiply. If acne is a problem for you, you can also try using a body wash that has benzoyl peroxide in it after your workout.
Exercise Rash / Chafing
Even if you don’t develop any weird bumps, rashes or infections from your clothing causing too much skin abrasion, there is still the straightforward matter of excess chafing. If you wear the wrong clothes while you exercise, they can rub your skin raw.
If you run, cycle or do any other steady state cardio, wear clothes made of low-friction fabrics. And don’t pick clothes that are too loose.
In event of chafe, wash the area with soap and water and then spread on some antibiotic ointment. Keep it covered up until it heals.
If chafing is a constant problem, try applying anti-fungal powder to your problem areas before exercising. The powder absorbs moisture and can make exercise a much more comfortable affair.
Follow these tips to avoid exercise rash and other nasty business. Fitness is important, but so is your health. Exercise rash isn’t as bad as obesity, but it’s not an either/or proposition.