Gym Equipment Has Over 362 Times More Bacteria Than A Toilet Seat, See The Top Offenders

While most people hitting up the gym are hoping to increase their level of health, researchers have discovered that gym-goers may be placing themselves at risk for a host of harmful bacteria, thanks to low levels of cleanliness in their fitness center of choice. In fact, certain areas of the gym proved to be rife with bacteria that could cause pneumonia, septicemia, and skin infections at levels 362 times that of a toilet seat. So which areas of the gym have the most bacteria and what precautions can you take to ensure your trip to the gym stays healthy?

The Daily Mail reports that researchers at FitRated gathered swab samples from 27 different pieces of gym equipment at three different gyms to determine exactly which items in your local fitness center are most likely to be a hotspot for bacteria. The swabs uncovered startling information, as over 70 percent of the swab samples contained bacteria that is deemed potentially harmful to humans.

Bacteria in gyms
FitRater found that free weights, treadmills and exercise bikes were rife with bacteria. (Image via FitRater)

The researchers reveal that a piece of gym equipment likely contains more than 1 million germs per square inch with over 70 percent of those germs considered harmful. The three top fitness center offenders included the treadmill, exercise bike, and free weights. The treadmill and exercise bike contained over 1.3 million bacteria per square inch on average at the three gyms tested, with the free weights clocking in at just over 1.1 million bacteria per square inch.

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To determine the severity of the bacteria present, it was split into four different groups: gram-positive cocci, gram-negative rods, gram-positive rods, and baccillus. The gram-positive cocci made up 41 percent of the bacteria samples and is responsible for the skin infections, pneumonia, and septicemia. Gram-negative rods made up 31 percent of samples obtained from the gym equipment with FitRated noting that 90 to 95 percent of these bacteria can be harmful to humans and that they are also many times drug resistant. The gram-positive rods were found to account for 14 percent of the samples with most considered not harmful. Similarly, bacillus was found in 14 percent of the samples and is considered safe as it is found typically in soil.

Per the FitRated research, free weights had 362 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, with 41 percent of that overall bacteria noted as Gram-positive cocci, the type of bacteria that can cause skin infections, pneumonia or septicemia. The treadmill had 74 times more bacteria than a water faucet, and the exercise bike was 39 times more likely to give you some icky bacteria than a reusable lunch tray.

Germs in gym
The top gym bacteria offenders contained more bacteria per square inch than a toilet seat, water faucet or reusable lunch tray. (Image via FitRated)

While the gram-positive and bacillus samples are typically not of a concern to fitness buffs, the gram-negative rods and gram-positive cocci could prove harmful to anyone who touches the gym equipment without first thoroughly sanitizing the area. FitRated says there are some things you can do to help prevent the spread of bacteria at the gym. First, always sanitize equipment before each use. Though the sign in the gym likely reads “sanitize after use,” FitRated notes it is best to take your health into your own hands and sanitize your own equipment each time.

Similarly, it is noted that you should never walk around the gym without shoes and that you should avoid touching your face after completing a workout until you can wash your hands thoroughly. If your gym offers a shower, it is suggested that you shower and change clothes before leaving the fitness center.

Did you know that a gym equipment harbors more bacteria than a toilet seat?

[Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images]