Almost everyone is at the gym for the same reason: to get in a good workout and stay healthy. But the gym is a public space, and some of the basic rules of etiquette need to be followed. It doesn't matter if you're a certified gym rat or are reading up on the things you need to learn when you join a gym; there are some common rules of decency you should keep in mind at the gym.
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Are you into funk? Gospel? Metal? That’s great, you should listen to it while you work out, but you shouldn’t make your neighbor listen too. A 2019 study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise confirmed that music leads to dissociative thoughts and induces more positive responses and perceived enjoyment when the listener is working out. However, it’s unlikely the person on the treadmill next to you wants to partake in your playlist. So be kind and use headphones.
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It’s good that you’ve taken the step of putting the headphones on, but listening to them too loudly is bad for you and those around you if the sound leaks out of your headphones. For your own safety, you should really only be listening to music at a maximum of around 94 decibels for about an hour. The World Health Organization suggests setting your device to about 60% of maximum volume to ensure your safety.
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The Edge Fitness Clubs commissioned a study by The Harris Poll that found that 43% of adult gym-goers took a picture or a video of themselves and 27% of those pictures and videos were selfies. If you must take a picture mid-workout, just make sure you are safely out of everyone’s way and no unsuspecting fellow gym-goers appear in your background. Not everyone likes to advertise their workouts, and it’s best to be respectful of that. Posting your entire life on social media is one of the obscure etiquette rules you didn't know you were breaking.
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According to a study by FitRated, over 64% of women surveyed avoid the gym due to anxiety or fear of judgement — and staring probably is not helping the matter. A separate study by OnePoll and Isopure found that 47% of people who admit to working out still feel intimidated by the gym. The gym should be a place that is comfortable for everyone and staring is one of the worst etiquette mistakes you can make.
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If you don’t have something nice to say, just don’t say anything at all. You aren’t someone’s personal trainer, and your unsolicited remarks can be distracting and rude. Unless someone might seriously hurt themselves using equipment incorrectly, keep pointers or comments to yourself. Working out for someone may be personal, and asking about their workout regimen or diet are among the questions you may not realize are rude.
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Sharing is caring and each gym has a finite amount of equipment, so don’t be an equipment hog. If you notice a line forming to use a treadmill, maybe cut your run short and use the elliptical. If you know you want to use a specific set of equipment or machine, perhaps opt for a time when you know the gym will be less crowded to avoid a line forming. You should also do your homework on how long you should be doing each workout. More isn’t always better and staying with one exercise too long may be one of the ways you are sabotaging your own workout.
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Exercise machines are for exercising. If your friend is lifting weights or using a machine and there is open equipment next to them, keep that equipment open and wait for them elsewhere. It’s not fair to others who might want to use the equipment for its intended use for you to just be sitting there on it idle.
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Just like gym equipment, your used towels are dirty. Be kind to gym employees and don’t make them touch those things more than necessary. Just clean up after yourself and put the towels in the bin. And while you’re at it, make sure to thank those who are cleaning up. Saying “thank you” is one of the easiest things you can do to be more polite.
Another way you should clean up after yourself is resetting weight plates and the weight settings on any machines. Not everyone is as strong as you, so don’t assume someone else can remove the amount of weight you were hauling.
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Much like how not everyone wants to listen to your music, not everyone wants to listen to your phone conversation either. Many gyms, such as Equinox, actually have no-cell phone policies to prevent this impolite practice.
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Dropping weights can damage the equipment and also has the potential to injure yourself or others. It may seem like a cool move, but it can come across braggy, and bragging is one of the rudest behaviors you can have. Return the weights to the ground as gently as possible.
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Make sure to return things where you got them so that the next user can find what they are looking for with ease. It isn’t someone else’s job to clean up after you. Leaving weights on the ground can also result in injury if others do not notice them.
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Whether you think the person looks fabulous or think they have put on a few pounds, it is incredibly rude to bring up another person’s weight or physique even in the context of a gym where everyone is trying to get into shape.
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If someone is in the middle of exercising, it might not be the best time to strike up a conversation. Whether it’s an old friend or someone you would like to speak to, make sure that you are asking if they are open to a conversation before launching into one. Don’t be offended if they aren’t. They might just be winded or want to focus on their workout.
This goes beyond being courteous and not wanting anyone to touch your sweat. Sweat purges your body of toxins, so the sweat you are leaving behind is full of bacteria. And there are plenty of places that bacteria hide that you might not expect. A study conducted by FitRated lab-tested samples from three gyms’ exercise equipment and found that the treadmill had 74 times more bacteria than an average public bathroom faucet and the exercise bike had 39 times more bacteria than a reusable plastic cafeteria tray. Over 70% of the bacteria found were potentially harmful to humans, including varieties that can cause skin infections and pneumonia and are resistant to antibiotics.
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Don’t litter communal spaces with your trash. Before leaving an area of the gym, take a quick look around to make sure you are leaving it as you found it. A better idea is to keep food completely out of the workout space. Make sure to eat before and after your workout, but leave your snacks in your locker.
Walking in after something has already started is disruptive to not just everyone in the class but also the instructor. Being late is one of the etiquette mistakes you need to stop doing.
When a workout class has an instructor, most people in the class will be trying to pay attention to the next move or the next instruction. They don’t need your commentary. Let everyone enjoy their class by letting everyone hear the instructions.
Do you really need to pack your whole skin care regimen for your post-workout shower? Remember the locker room is a shared space and take into account the others who also need to utilize the space.
You have a beautiful voice in your own shower, but in the gym shower, keep the concert to a minimum. Similarly, understand that everyone has differing levels of comfortability, so in communal spaces be conscious of how your actions are affecting everyone around you. Take cues from your gym’s culture and make sure that you are reading all the rules. Class Pass suggests getting in and out of a gym shower in between five and 10 minutes and saving personal grooming for your own home. And if the gym isn't for you, there are plenty of other workout arenas. For some inspiration, here are the 50 all-time best exercises for weight loss.
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