You already know to keep that towel handy in the gym. Not for you, though. It’s to wipe down benches and handlebars, right? But, you need to keep your gym mat clean and avoid herpes simplex, too.
Dirty Mats= Infectious Skin Disease
A recent blog post has gotten people speculating. Can you get herpes from your gym mat? Surgeon David A. Greuner, M.D., FACS, FICS, seems to think so. And, according to a report from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), they seem to think so, too. However, they never really state which herpes you can catch.
That is not to say that you can’t catch either one on a dirty gym mat. But, an infected person would have to spread it to the mat. So, it seems unlikely that HSV-2 is involved.
However, it is likely that you can catch HSV-1. People touch their mouths all the time. Sometimes unconsciously. And touch everything right afterward.
What they are probably referring to is the herpes called “mat herpes.” This is actually caused by that same HSV-1 that causes cold sores, but this skin infection is referred to as Herpes gladiatorum.
Infection spreads the same way, through direct contact with skin lesions. And, unlike cold sores that are mainly on the lips and mouth, herpes gladiatorum can spread to any part of the body. Even more alarming, though unlikely, is the fact that HSV can survive on inanimate objects from only a few hours to 7 days.
So, what can you do? The answer is simple: be diligent about cleaning your mat. A study showed that Lysol or bleach can kill HSV in as little as 10 minutes. Bring travel wipes if you go to a gym outside your house. And, remember to let it fully dry before using the mat again.
Though it may put a dent in your exercise rhythm, it’s time to keep your gym mat clean and avoid herpes simplex. Better 10 minutes out of your life, then an infection that lasts the rest of your life.