We hope you’re sitting down for this news, and preferably not on a weightlifting bench: The gym is a pretty gnarly place.
Turns out, there’s a lot of bacteria on that piece of gym equipment you’re using. Fit Rated, a website that reviews fitness products, commissioned indoor air quality laboratory EmLab P&K to perform lab testing on three different gyms and 27 different pieces of equipment, which included treadmills, bikes and free weights, to examine gym cleanliness.
Let’s just the say the findings are more nauseating than an intense cardio session.
The study revealed that there is 39 times more bacteria on an exercise bike than on a reusable plastic lunch tray. There’s 74 times more bacteria on a treadmill than on a water faucet and ― here’s the kicker ― 362 times more bacteria on free weights than on a toilet seat. A toilet seat!
According to the findings, 52 percent of the bacteria found on treadmills are the “most common cause of skin infections and a frequent cause of pneumonia and septicemia,” while 70 percent of the overall bacteria found “are potentially harmful to humans.”
It’s important to note that this wasn’t a wide-ranging study. A sample size of three gyms is relatively small. However, it still provides insight into the cleanliness of the equipment you’re using during your sweat session.
But before you swear off working out forever, try taking a big yoga inhale and out. It’s not all bad news, according to Kelly Reynolds, microbiologist and associate professor at the Zuckerman College of Public Health in Arizona.
Reynolds, who was not involved with the study, shared a silver lining with HuffPost about the nature of the bacteria found on your favorite gym machines.
“Not all the bacteria targeted here are the disease-causing type,” she said. “But the large numbers do indicate a high level of contamination potentials and a low level of routine cleaning and disinfecting.”
So, what is a fitness devotee with a strong desire to stay healthy to do? Reynolds said that using the disinfecting wipes offered in gyms before and after use helps, but what matters most is what you do once you leave.
“Your best defense is to be aware of washing your hands post workout and before eating or touching your face,” she said. “Rinsing off any exposed skin that may have come into contact with contaminated surfaces is also recommended.”
Done and done. Check out the entire study at Fit Rated.