Five gym etiquette rules to follow when working out

Meghan Holt, DN Illustration
Meghan Holt, DN Illustration

With 52 percent of Americans’ New Year’s resolutions being to exercise more, according to Statistica, and 12 percent of new gym members starting in January, according to RunRepeat, gyms have been filling up. This means new people to fitness centers, some who don’t know the “unwritten rules” of the gym. Here are five rules of gym etiquette for all those visiting the gym.

Respect others and their space.

When personal space isn’t respected, it can make people nearby uncomfortable. This is also important because it can be dangerous to workout too close to someone else. If someone drops a weight or stretches out a little farther than expected, you could be in harm’s way. 

Respecting others also means leaving people alone without reason. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do outside of the gym. This means being patient and not hovering over people who are on a piece of equipment you may want to use. This can also mean not giving out unsolicited advice or making comments about someone’s body and technique. 

Be clean.

This goes for both yourself and the equipment. According to the CDC, germs living on dry surfaces can last for days, even weeks. That is why it’s so important to wipe down equipment after each use, though it helps to do it before as well. Taking a shower right after leaving the gym can help remove any germs that might’ve been missed. 

It’s also good to wear clean clothes and have good personal hygiene. Odors can affect both yourself and others, but bacteria can grow on sweaty gym clothes. According to The Healthy, this can also lead to bacterial infections, rashes and viruses. 

Be aware of your surroundings, but don’t stare.

For safety reasons, it is important to be aware of your surroundings, especially at the gym. You never know when someone will run by or a piece of equipment is being used. It is important not to stare though, or you can make people uncomfortable. According to Metro, three in five women say they have felt “inappropriately looked at” in the gym (not that it’s just a problem for women). A quick glance around the room is a good way to stay aware without making others uneasy. 

When choosing equipment, it’s important to be aware of what is in use. Sometimes, a tell-tale sign can be a towel or a water bottle on or next to a machine. This may mean the machine is taken, even if someone isn’t on it. Being aware helps allow you to be respectful of others and show care for yourself. 

Respect the equipment.

Exercise equipment can be quite expensive. Renting out equipment, according to Lendio, can be between $60 to $100 a month per item. Depending on the item, purchasing usually costs between $2,000 to $7,000. Imagine how much it costs to fill a gym. Primo Fitness estimates it would cost about $10,000 to have a small, personal gym. This is why it’s so important to respect the equipment. It could be a hard realization when ‘You break it, you buy it,’ also applies to gym equipment. 

Putting things back where they belong is another part of having respect for the gym and the equipment. Leaving something out can be a safety hazard and can cause more work to do for the next person. Along with that, when someone goes too hard on a piece of equipment or uses it wrong, it can hurt both the equipment and the person working out. It is important to read the rules of the gym and each piece of equipment used, so everyone can be safe.

Respect people’s times.

A big part of respecting others' time is not hogging the equipment. Everyone has a place to be, and some want to get in and out of the gym quickly. Allowing others to use limited equipment is a good sign of respect. If you are dedicated to working on that one piece of equipment, then you can always try to let someone “work in.” This, according to Coach Magazine, means allowing someone to use a piece of equipment between sets while you rest. 

There are many other unwritten rules gym rats live to follow. Going to the gym can be intimidating, but the more you go, the more you will get comfortable and figure out the flow of the fitness center. Following these tips, along with any other rules at your gym, will help to have the best and most comfortable experience. 

Contact Lila Fierek with comments at


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