Here’s how it usually goes: you head into the gym, hop on the elliptical, sweat it out for 30 minutes, and then, before heading onto your next activity, you give the machine a quick wipe down so it’s ready for the next taker. So long as everyone else takes the same considerate approach to their workout, everything should be good to go cleanliness-wise, right? Ehh, not quite.
While all of us head to the gym to get our bodies and health in good shape, it turns out that the levels of bacteria and germs sitting on the surface of some of your go-to gym equipment might make it as much of a health hazard as it is a helper. According to research from FitRated, a site known for its reviews of fitness equipment, the level of bacteria that tends to linger on machines and workout equipment like treadmills, exercise bikes, and free weights at public gyms may warrant quite a bit of unease from the regular gym goer.
For starters, workout machines like treadmills and exercise bikes have been found to have about 1.3 million colony-forming units (CFU) of bacteria on them, on average, while free weights have even more, with an average of about 1.5 CFU. (Just for the record, 1.5 CFU is about 362 times the amount of bacteria that you’d find on a toilet seat. Grimy.) Of that bacteria, the majority tends to be gram-positive cocci, which is the strain of bacteria that is most commonly associated with skin infections or conditions like pneumonia. In the case of free weights, while gram-positive cocci are outnumbered by the slightly more benign gram-negative rods, that less threatening form of bacteria is still harmful about 90-95% of the time, and is generally resistant to antibiotics.
So, what does that mean for your regular workouts? Well, while it would be great if everybody could have their own home gyms that only they had to take care of, that’s not always a possibility. Instead, try focusing on wiping down machines before in addition to after you use them, and make sure to use those sanitary wipes on the free weights, too. You should also try to avoid touching your face after touching different machines, and always remember to wash your hands often when handling gym equipment. You might feel a little silly approaching all of the equipment like something of a germaphobe, but believe us when we say that clean equipment is as important to your health as those sets of bicep curls are.