Can You Catch the Flu at the Gym?

The gym is a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. So should you avoid your health club to stay healthy this winter? Not necessarily. Here's why.

Ben Greenfield
2-minute read

From sweat-covered machines, to grimy water fountains and questionable toilet seats, your average gym can be a breeding ground for bacteria and rapidly-spreading viruses, like the ones that cause the cold and flu.

So should you completely avoid hitting the gym this winter and stay confined to your backyard or basement for your workout sessions?

Not exactly. The fact is that exercising, movement, and sweating can all strengthen your immune system. And many of us simply have a hard time getting the adequate intensity or volume of exercise unless we’re surrounded by or motivated by others in a workout setting such as a gym.

See also: Hidden Dangers at the Gym


While it’s certainly true that due to antibacterial sprays, a high amount of human traffic, and bodily fluids everywhere (yuck!), a gym can be a petri dish for “super-bacteria,” but if you’re taking care of your body with plenty of nutrient- and vitamin-rich foods, washing your hands with soap (preferable to antibacterials) before and after your gym visits, getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding the gym if you’re already sick, then your immune system should be able to handle most of the assailants you’ll find at a gym.

There’s even some evidence to suggest that frequent exposure to other people’s germs may actually help your immune system become stronger, which is a wonderful reason to not isolate yourself to the protective bubble of your home gym this winter!

What do you think? Should you avoid the gym to avoid getting the flu? Head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy to leave your questions and join the conversation.

Stay tuned for a special episode that will be jam-packed with 30 quick and dirty tips to strengthen your immune system.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.