DALLAS, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Routine trips to the gym for exercise can help boost health and fitness but may also lead to an infection if people aren't careful, says a U.S. expert.
Gyms can harbor methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, as people who sweat share equipment, exercise mats and locker rooms, according to Dr. R. Doug Hardy, an infectious-disease specialist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
MRSA, a bacterial staph infection resistant to many antibiotics, is transmitted when skin contacts contaminated surfaces.
"Bacteria can survive on the surface of shared gym equipment or towels and infect the body through an open wound, causing red, swollen, painful and even fatal skin infections," Hardy says.
Most antibiotic-resistant staph infections occurred in healthcare facilities, but now MRSA infections occur commonly in the public arena, including gyms, says Hardy.
Hardy urges gym users to follow federally endorsed health guidelines, including: bandaging any skin areas that have cuts or abrasions; not sharing personal items such as towels; using a barrier such as clothing or a towel between your skin and shared equipment; wiping surfaces of equipment before and after use; and washing your hands after workouts.