Adult Cooties: Germs at the Gym

One of the many health benefits of regular exercise is that it boosts the immune system.  Ironically, the gym where many of us do our daily workout is swarming with germs and bacteria which, if you’re not careful, can do the opposite of boosting your immune system.  According to Dr. Philip Tierno, a microbiologist at New York University, “Eighty percent of all infectious disease is transmitted by contact.” For that reason it is important to be aware of where the biggest germ zones are when at the gym.  So where exactly are these germs lurking?

The top 6 offenders:

Dumb bells & weight machines – Any area at the gym that has a quick turn around and multiple sequence use is a hot zone for bacteria and viruses.  Cardio machines usually are wiped down with every use; weight machines and free weights are not.  You are therefore leaving your germs behind for the next person and so on.  In a study performed by the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine it was found that viruses and bacteria were found on 73% of weight equipment that they tested.  The best way to avoid picking up any germs is to wash your hands immediately after weight use.  The average person touches their face around 18 times per hour – something to keep in mind during and after your bicep curls.

Bike seats & cardio machines – The Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found that 51% of cardio equipment tested had viruses and bacteria on them.  Most ubiquitous was Rhinovirus which causes the common cold.  The bike seat is the worst of the worst when it comes to germy cardio machines.  Direct contact occurs for the entire duration of use, creating an optimum environment for germs to thrive!

Bench press – Requiring the user to lay down, the bench press is found to harbor a myriad of bacteria types.  Gravity is mainly to blame because all of your sweat drips down and covers the padded bench.  Be sure to wipe down the bench before AND after use!

Shower floor & locker room – The hot and humid environment created by the shower is a perfect breeding ground for an innumerable amount of germs.  New research has even shown that the water spouting from the shower head can disperse pathogen-filled water droplets that people can breathe into their lungs.  Athlete’s Foot and Human Papillomavirus (cause of Plantars warts) can be contracted from floors in the shower area or locker room.  Never go barefoot when in these areas.

Gym mats – Residual sweat that is left behind creates a proliferating area for germs to cultivate and flourish.  Mats are typically never cleaned after use allowing for viruses like the herpes virus, to be transferred from person to person.  A strain of MRSA has even shown up on gym mats tested in recent studies.  A yoga mat is a personal item much like a pillow is, therefore it should not be shared amongst a group of people.  The best way to avoid contact with such bacteria is to simply bring your own mat to the gym.  If you do not have your own, a towel works as a makeshift barrier between your body and the grimy mat.

Water fountain – Dr. Charles Gerba has found that water fountains can have more bacteria than toilets!  With the constant direct contact with peoples’ mouths, it isn’t even a good idea to fill up your personal water bottle here.  Bring your own pre-filled H₂O bottle to hydrate during your workout.

Don’t let the germaphobe within deter you from getting in your daily workout.  By following a few steps you will be exercising your body as well as your cleanliness!

  • Bring your own towel from home, as well as yoga mat, and ready-to-drink water bottle.
  • Cover up any small scrapes or cuts to prevent any broken skin from having direct contact with a potential hot zone of germs.
  • Hand sanitizer is good to have on-hand [pun intended] to wipe out germs in a pinch.
  • Wiping down equipment after each use is a way to protect others, but don’t forget to wipe down before each use as well to protect yourself.

Following these basic suggestions will ensure that your time at the gym is well-spent. You’ll feel better inside and out!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *