Germs at the Gym: Is it Healthy to Exercise While Sick?

Flu season is well underway.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has 22,048 flu cases from Sept. 30 through the end of 2012.

By the same time last year, only 849 flu cases had been reported nationwide.

That's 26 times more flu cases by the last week of this year than by the last week of 2011.

Many people attempt to stay healthy with exercise and diet, but it may be difficult when germs are everywhere-- even at the gym.

"I think gyms are dirty," said Ryan Buck, as he took a short break from exercising on Saturday at Aspen Athletic Club near 61st and O.

"I wash my hands a couple times throughout the workout and sanitize."

The extra germs may make it more difficult to prevent illness, especially when people choose to exercise even when they're sick.

"I believe it's a way to kind of rid the system and amp up your immunity and maybe get better faster," said Buck.

This is a common assumption, but Justin Black, manager at Aspen Athletic Club, says that in some cases, exercising while sick can actually make matters worse.

"People probably think usually when you work out, you feel better," said Black. "It tends to be the opposite. It actually can make you more sick."

Especially when you have a fever. Exercising causes the temperature of the body to rise, which could make you sicker.

"I think most people, if they're really sick are going to be staying home," he said, "but with winter, there's sniffles, and coughs here and there."

Because of this, Black said it's more important than ever to sanitize equipment and encourage members to frequently wash their hands.

"Basically throughout the day, we go through multiple team cleanings, and wipe down machines. We have several sanitation stations that we have as well for members. We also have a cleaning crew that comes in overnight to clean the equipment."

Aspen also offers child care while parents are exercising, but in order to fight germs, they do not allow parents to bring in sick children.