Getting in shape is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions and can be great for your health. But heading to the gym can also make you sick. That’s because health clubs can be a breeding ground for some nasty germs, including bacteria, viruses and fungi.

“I think people understand that you can pick up a cold or a flu at the gym. But really some of the most common things that you pick up are skin infections," said Teresa Carr of Consumer Reports.

Germs that cause skin infections thrive in sweat left on exercise equipment and towels, as well as the warm, moist areas like locker rooms and pool decks.

"Staph infections such as MRSA can be a little more worrisome because they're resistant to some antibiotics and so they're a bit harder to treat,” warned Carr.

But MRSA, along with more common infections, like plantar warts, athlete's foot and jock itch can typically be prevented.

Here are some common sense strategies that can help keep you healthy while working out:

  • Start by keeping cuts covered. That's the best way to keep germs out.
  • Use a towel over weight machines
  • Always wear flip-flops in wet areas.
  • Bring your own exercise mat and disinfect it regularly.
  • Practice good hygiene by wiping down equipment, washing your hands and showering after a swim
  • Do your laundry. Washing your gear helps prevent germ build up

Consumer Reports also suggests taking a good look around a gym before you join. Check to see if the equipment is well maintained, if the bathrooms and locker rooms are kept clean and stocked with liquid soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer. All can be indications of how clean a health club is.