Next time you’re at the gym, spray down that bench before you lie down, and consider bringing your own mat and towel. Scientists say that’s one of the safest ways to cut your risk of contracting an MRSA infection. Short for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, this staph bacteria is often spread by skin-to-skin or skin-to-surface contact and is resistant to many antibiotics.
According to the CDC, one in three people carry staph and two in 100 carry MRSA. And the gym is a hot spot for the germs, says Kelly A. Reynolds, Ph.D., a microbiologist at the University of Arizona. “Towels collect MRSA because the bacteria survive very well on dry surfaces,” she says. Yoga mats and exercise balls are also often contaminated. To curb your risk, wash your hands and cover any open wounds.