Mr. Green

Spas, Health & Wellness

Managing Hygiene in Hospitality Based Fitness Centers

By Bryan Green, President & CEO, Advantage Fitness Products

One might assume that the fitness center is likely among the healthiest places to be in a hotel or resort…or it could be the least. The virtues of providing your guests with a functional and well balanced fitness facility are plentiful and today well known. However, ensuring the safety of your guests while they use the facility goes beyond the simple maintenance of your fitness equipment.

Today, the threat of wide scale microbial contamination is greater than ever. The gym environment presents a natural breeding ground for these contaminants. Understanding what the risks are, and what can be done to create a hygiene friendly facility will help you comprehensively achieve a most healthy fitness experience for your guests.

What You Need to Know

Bacteria in poorly maintained fitness facilities can spread disease. Antibiotic-resistant staph infections can be picked up from heavily used exercise equipment, stretching mats, and improperly disinfected toilets/locker rooms.

Skin based staph infections, including those caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria, can spread through shared gym equipment, mats and towels. Infections tend to occur near a cut or scrape or body parts that my directly come into contact with infected surfaces. Astoundingly the CDC currently reports that MRSA now kills more people in the USA than AIDS. With 20-30 million Americans visiting fitness facilities of all types multiple times per week, it is incumbent upon operators to re-evaluate their cleaning and personal hygiene protocols.

MRSA is found on people and not naturally found in the environment. It reaches objects and surfaces outside the body if someone touches infected skin or certain areas of the body where these bacteria can live and then touches the object or surface. Another way that items can be contaminated with staph and MRSA is if they have direct contact with a person's skin infection.

The best defense is good facility hygiene. Helping to remind guests to keep their hands clean, use a barrier like clothing or towels between them and any shared surfaces (like gym equipment) and shower immediately after activities that involve direct skin contact with others.

Disinfecting and Cleaning the Fitness Amenity

The specific challenge with the fitness facility is that common disinfectants and cleaning agents de-activate within as quickly as one hour after application, thereby leaving surfaces un-protected over 90% of the time in the absence of constant reapplication. As a general strategy, hand washing, personal bathing, and the wiping down of sweat should be a reminder to guests. Subtle but important signage must be created to reinforce these messages in fitness and indoor pool areas. Awareness is critical for facility participants, and not calling attention to this important health concern is by no means a strategy.

As a general rule, the hotel should triple up on its "general" cleaning and disinfecting procedures for the fitness area. Typically these areas are not large in comparison to lobby or conference facilities. However, scheduling more frequent inspections and attention will serve to keep both the facility clean as well as to visual demonstrate to guests that you have a strong commitment to this aspect of their care.

Planning For a Healthy Fitness Facility

Effective room design and planning are important in helping you more easily overcome the future challenges of operating a clean and health facility. The key is to allow for the facility to appear and remain germ free for longer intervals in between cleaning. When designing a new space or re-fitting an existing one, take steps to insure the facility remains easy to clean and engage your guests in keeping it that way. One of the most important steps to keeping a fitness center looking and smelling clean revolves around its floor coverings. It is highly recommended both for functional as well as hygienic perspective to utilize rubber flooring. Rubber is easily cleaned with powerful disinfectants and allows for a much quicker removal of sweat after guest use. Carpet is less functional, wears more quickly, and can become a haven for mildew and other bacteria to accumulate.

Ventilation systems are also an important aspect of the facility. Insure that HVAC systems have been designed specifically around the often moist and constricted airflow space that is fitness. Frequent replenishment of fresh air vs. recirculation is critical. Open windows or gain airflow naturally from the outside whenever possible.

Another basic but design oriented measure is to include a wash basis within the facility itself or adjacent via an easily accessible restroom. This will help to encourage and facilitate the frequent washing of hands before and after facility use. This single addition may increase the cleanliness of your facility by over 90%.

Give Your Guests Peace of Mind

It is also important to provide guests with other hygiene friendly tools that will help them feel empowered to participate in keeping themselves safe and the facility clean. Disaffecting Equipment Wipes are one of the most common and visually obvious items that can be made available via wall mounted or free standing dispensers. It's important to select wipes that have been specifically formulated for the gym environment as they must be alcohol free to be used directly on fitness center equipment. Hand sanitizer dispensers that today are more generally found in all types of public areas are also encouraged.

Where possible, towel service is an excellent way to further encourage the wiping down of facility equipment after use. It suggests to guests that you understand their interest in placing a barrier between themselves and the last slew of users that might have worked out prior to the next visit from housekeeping. Towel sizes are commonly available today fabricated specifically for the type of use in fitness center, and do not need to be plush, nor oversized to be effective.

New Technology

With the emergence of "superbugs" and other scary contaminants, a handful of products have begun to reach the market that produce a residual effectiveness against these villains. However, several are methanol based and require that after each facility treatment, guests must be evacuated for 4-6 hours. This is obviously not always practical for the hospitality space. One manufacturer, Goldshield Med.LLC, has tested their water based formulary in leading hospitals worldwide and claims that in addition to its residual effectiveness, it provides a long term prophylactic protection. They recommend the use of their product for all fitness facility applications including schools, professional sports teams, and public fitness centers. Typically facilities must be treated one per month at a cost of approximately $1 per sq.ft. for smaller, hotel based areas. Facilities gain certification thus providing an ever greater level of demonstrated care and peace of mind for their visitors.

It is clear that no matter what the size of your fitness center, a commitment to a clean and hygienic facility is not optional. Through a series of steps and ongoing care, the hotel can effectively plan for the conditions that should be anticipated in a fitness center. Frequent cleaning and disinfection remain key. Providing guests with disposable measures such as wipes and hand sanitizer are simple but effective measures to extend awareness and eliminate germs at the root of their origin. Ultimately, creating awareness and visibility around your commitments here will enhance the perception you deliver to your guests and demonstrate your care for them in yet another very important way.

Bryan Green is a fitness expert and advisor to core & non-traditional businesses alike in industries including hospitality, multi-family housing, corporations, and Academic institutions. Mr. Green serves as President and CEO of Advantage Fitness Products (AFP), a leading provider of innovative fitness and wellness-based solutions for commercial facilities worldwide and specialized residential environments. AFP offers expertise across multiple facets of the health & fitness industry, including facility design, equipment supply, and ongoing support. Mr. Green also serves on the Editorial Board for Fitness On-Site Magazine, and advisory boards for leading industry equipment and content providers TechnoGym, Star Trac, & Netpulse. Mr. Green can be contacted at 310-559-9949 Ext: 110 or Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
General Search:

JUNE: Sales & Marketing: Who Owns the Guest?

Wendy Stevens

From digital room keys to wireless internet, the hospitality industry continues to embrace new tools and technologies that promise to enrich the guest experience. Advances in technology also open up possibilities behind the scenes for hospitality sales and marketing professionals—online booking services, social media channels, and hotel review sites are reshaping the sales and marketing landscape in important ways. But are all of those changes necessarily a good thing? Are there limitations to the power of technology, and inherent trade-offs and compromises that need to be taken into account? READ MORE

Joe Currie

Being a business traveler is not about choosing between Tahiti and Maui for a dream vacation; it is about the luck of dodging an air delay and narrowly catching a few winks of sleep at a hotel before a morning meeting with a client. Business travelers do not have the luxury of choosing time or location, but they do have a choice when it comes to their hotel booking, and the entity that has the most influence over that choice in accommodation ultimately becomes the owner of it. READ MORE

Bill Linehan

Channel management is a practice that allows hotel companies to cast a wider net to capture more market share. How you manage various marketplaces defines your customer acquisition strategy. RLH Corporation recognizes cost of distribution differences between direct and third-party channels, and we always promote direct bookings. However, an important component of increasing direct channel traffic and conversion is to leverage OTA site traffic to promote brand awareness. RLH Corporation takes a contrarian approach to OTAs – a customer acquisition strategy where we fish where the fish are to capture, convert and retain ongoing relationships with consumers. READ MORE

Tara K. Gorman

When guests checks into a hotel, there are plenty to mechanisms to protect their physical “stuff”, but how can they be sure that their personal information is protected? This is the question hotel owners and operators are keenly focused on in the aftermath of cybersecurity breaches in the hospitality industry. Guest Data - an Asset or a Liability in the Age of Cybersecurity? will explore whether guest data is an asset or a liability by exploring the rules and regulations that govern privacy and security, steps that hotel operations can take to ensure that they are in compliance with privacy and security requirements for guest data, and privacy considerations. READ MORE

Coming Up In The July Online Hotel Business Review

Feature Focus
Hotel Spa: Measuring the Results
As the Hotel Spa and Wellness Movement continues to flourish, spa operations are seeking new and innovative ways to expand their menu of services to attract even more people to their facilities, and to and measure the results of spa treatments. Whether it’s spa, fitness, wellness meet guest expectations. Among new developments, there seems to be a growing emphasis on science to define or beauty services, guests are becoming increasingly careful about what they ingest, inhale or put on their skin, and they are requesting scientific data on the treatments they receive. They are open to exploring the benefits of alternative therapies – like brain fitness exercises, electro-magnetic treatments, and chromotherapy – but only if they have been validated scientifically. Similarly, some spas are integrating select medical services and procedures into their operations, continuing the convergence of hotel spas with the medical world. Parents are also increasingly concerned about the health and well-being of their children and are willing to devote time and money to overcome their poor diets, constant stress, and hours spent hunched over computer, tablet and smartphone screens. Parents are investing in wellness-centric family vacations; yoga and massage for kids; mindfulness and meditation classes; and healthy, locally sourced, organic food. For hotel spas, this trend represents a significant area for future growth. Other trends include the proliferation of Wellness Festivals which celebrate health and well-being, and position hotel spas front and center. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.