Health Watch -- Toxic Gym Clothes

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

There's a good reason to shower and change clothes after gym class.

As any parent who's washed a child's dirty gym clothes knows, those clothes can be hazardous to your health. But it's not just the smell that can do you in. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that sweaty gym clothes are a prime breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.

Those warm, moist clothes create a perfect environment for germs to grow, and those germs can make you sick. Dr. Luis Palacios, a family practice doctor at UT Southwestern, says when he sees athletes who get sick repeatedly, his first piece of advice is to shower and change clothes right after a game, practice or workout.

That advice applies to professionals, college athletes, high school athletes, gym students or anyone else who gets hot and sweaty. Change out of your sweaty exercise clothes as soon as possible after a workout. If you have the chance to take a shower, do so - even if that option isn't popular among other students. It's best to wash your workout clothes and wear clean clothes for your next workout, if you can. At any rate, you probably don't want to leave your sweaty gym clothes in your locker until they can practically walk home by themselves.

Dr. Palacios says this shouldn't be an excuse not to exercise. Regular exercise is essential for maintaining good health. Just be sure to clean up after you exercise.