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How to avoid injury, infection, and other health risks at the gym.

Risk: Unqualified Staff

Does your personal trainer have a degree or certificate? Or did he pay a nominal fee, take a brief online test, and, presto, became a fitness instructor?

"Yes, that can happen," says Sherri McMillan, spokeswoman for the IDEA Health and Fitness Association. "There are people out there who call themselves personal fitness trainers and instructors with minimal, outdated, or no qualifications."

Avoiding the Risk

Ask to see certificates and degrees and ensure they are current, McMillan advises. Certifying organizations include the American Council on Exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Specialists may have specific certificates, such as those offered by the Pilates Method Alliance for Pilates instructors. McMillan also recommends asking about recent workshops or conferences your fitness pro has attended to make sure they're staying current in the field.

It's also important to make sure team members are certified in CPR/fitness first aid and automated external defibrillator (AED), a portable electronic device that can treat sudden cardiac arrest. Make sure the gym staff knows where the first aid kit and AED are located, McMillan says.

Risk: Equipment Malfunction

Hundreds of people may use your gym's equipment every day. That can cause wear and tear to the equipment, which could lead to malfunction -- and risks to you.

Avoiding the Risk

Ask the gym staff how often equipment is assessed and repaired, and speak up if you see something that's broken. "If you notice cables starting to fray or any piece of equipment that doesn't seem to be operating correctly or effectively, stop using it and report the issue to a staff member," McMillan says.

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