“What Lives at the Gym” campaign educates students on common germs found at the gym

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Photo Credit: Victoria Smith | Daily Texan Staff

The “What Lives at the Gym” campaign hopes to make gains educating students about good gym hygiene. 

The campaign, started by a group of advertising and public relations students in March, aims to change the way people interact with and treat the gym. While the campaign is not specific to one gym, the group hopes to change how UT students interact with gyms on campus.

According to the campaign, staph, strep throat and influenza are the most common gym germs and are spread by something easily found at the gym — sweat. 

Public relations senior Jennifer Furlong, who works on social media management and promotion, said it’s important to raise awareness about gym germs and gym etiquette because of the health repercussions of getting sick from these germs. 

“As college students, we tend to not have the strongest immune systems due to our lack of sleep and poor diets, so we are more susceptible to catching these germs,” Furlong said. “Gym germs are easily spread, but they are also easily preventable.”

Public relations senior Ashley Harmon, the group’s producer, said the group was inspired to start the campaign after a project in their Integrated Communication Campaigns class. 

Chad Rea, lecturer for Texas Creative who assigned the project, said the goal was for students to design a promotional campaign that utilizes different mediums to address an issue that they were passionate about. 

“I made the students the client and agency and asked them to find a social problem that they’d like to help solve,” Rea said.

Harmon said her group decided to focus on their topic after realizing how much of a breeding ground the gym was for contagious germs. 

She said figures released by the Center for Disease Control that stated that 310,000 people were hospitalized for flu-related illnesses last year helped drive the campaign. Additionally, a study by the Brooke Army Medical Center found viruses on 63 percent of hand-contact surfaces of equipment and 73 percent on weight equipment at the gym. 

She said the group is currently working with the University Health Services and UT RecSports to expand the informational campaign.

The “What Lives at the Gym” campaign currently uses social media and posters to provide information about common bacterial and viral infections found in left-behind sweat as well as tips for gym-goers on how to stop the spread of the infections. 

The group personified different bacteria found at the gym to create humorous characters. Furlong said the team plans to use these characters throughout their campaign in educational videos and social media posts.

Advertising senior Lexie Garrett came up with the campaign’s slogan, “Squeegee your sweat.” Garrett and the other members of the team have used this slogan to spread their message.  

“We are frequently posting ‘germlets’ to our social media accounts, or simple posts showing ways to prevent these germs,” Furlong said. “These germs can be extremely dangerous (and) students should be aware of the potential bacteria in the gym so they can take the right precautionary steps.”

Advertising senior Johnny Moseley said the hardest part of the campaign is staying accountable on social media and working with administration to raise awareness.

“In the end it is beyond rewarding that I am able to work on something for a relevant cause like keeping people healthy,” Moseley said. “This is my first time spearheading an actual campaign, and I can easily say that there’s nothing like...seeing it implemented in a real world setting.”