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6 Gym Health Hazards

How to avoid injury, infection, and other health risks at the gym.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD

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 "There are people out there who call themselves personal fitness trainers and instructors with minimal, outdated, or no qualifications."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.

Risk: Improper Exercise Selection or Form

Choosing the wrong exercises or using improper form is one of the most common hazards in the gym, says Neal I. Pire, spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine. "Just because an exercise is 'Mr. Olympia's favorite' does not mean it is a good choice for you. Couple this with not asking for professional help from a personal trainer, and you are ripe for a mishap that will land you at the neighborhood orthopedist."

Avoiding the Risk

"Know your limits," McMillan says. "You know your body better than anyone." If you have special risks or conditions -- such as a bad back, high blood pressure, recent surgery -- tell your trainer so he or she can tailor your exercise program to your specific needs.

Risk: Falls

Jumping, running, and moving around various objects in the gym can increase your risk of tripping and falling.

Avoiding the Risk

Be aware of your surroundings, McMillan cautions. Watch for items that you might trip over -- such as a water bottle, hand weight, piece of equipment, sweatshirt, or even a loose set of keys. Then move them to a safer location. Be especially careful in wet areas around showers, pools, and hot tubs, where you're more likely to slip and fall.

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