Avoiding Germs In The Gym | Stephen Coleclough PT
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Avoiding Germs In The Gym

Avoiding Germs In The Gym

The gym is the place where people go to become fit and healthy.

Unfortunately, it is also the prefect breeding ground for germs.

The presence of so many people working out and secreting bodily fluids makes it an ideal environment for bacteria, viruses, and fungi to thrive.

Thankfully, there are a few steps you can take to avoid germs in the gym.

In this post, I’ll share the types of germs found in most gyms and what you can do to avoid them!

The types of germs found in the gym

A US study published in 2014 looked at the types of germs found in public fitness centres.

They collected samples from skin-contact surfaces including gym mats, handrails, and exercise equipment.

The researchers found 17 bacterial families and 25 bacterial genera, including an abundance of Firmicutes phyla, Proteobacter, Actinobacteria, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Klebsiella, and Micrococcus. Staphylococcus.

The authors of the study said their findings highlighted the importance of personal hygiene in the gym.

An earlier study conducted in 2006 found that gyms also harboured viruses.

Including rhinovirus, which is responsible for the common cold.

Another study from fitness equipment company Fit Rated found that gym equipment including treadmills, exercise bikes, and free weights were packed with bacteria.

Over 70% of the bacteria they found were potentially harmful to humans, with strains capable of causing skin infections, pneumonia, or septicaemia.

They found that gym equipment contained more bacteria than objects most people consider to be coated in germs.

For example, the exercise bike they tested had 39 times more bacteria than a plastic reusable cafeteria tray.

A treadmill was found to have 74 times more bacteria than a bathroom water faucet.

The gym’s free weights were found to have 362 times more bacteria than a toilet seat!

Locations and objects with the most germs

Certain locations and objects in the gym tend to have more germs.

They include:

The treadmill

The treadmill is one of the dirtiest pieces of equipment in the gym.

The Fit Rated study found that treadmills had 1,333,432 CFU (bacteria colony forming units per square inch).

It harbours a lot of bacteria because treadmill users sweat a lot and spread bacteria by touching many parts of the machine.

Exercise bikes

The exercise bike isn’t far behind the treadmill in terms of germs.

The bikes measured in the Fit Rated study had an average of 1,333,418 CFU.

Exercise bikes have a lot of bacteria on them for the same reasons as treadmills – the people who use them are sweating heavily while constantly touching the handle bars and seat.

Free weights

The Fit Rated study found that free weights had slightly less germs, coming in at 1,158,381 CFU.

Free weights tend to accumulate more germs because they are often overlooked by cleaners and not wiped down by most gym-goers.

Locker room

The locker room in most gyms is usually a wet and humid location, which is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow.

You also have people walking into the locker room with shoes that may have bacteria on them and people often walk around in a semi-naked state.

Exercise mats

Exercise mats tend to accumulate bacteria and viruses.

People step on exercise mats with dirty shoes, sweat on them, spit on them, and cough on them!

If you are performing yoga on one of these mats, you may be touching a very unhygienic surface.


Most people assume the towels at the gym at clean – but that’s not always the case.

Gym-goers sometimes use a towel for wiping down benches and place it near the clean pile where it is accidentally picked up by another user.

General tips for avoiding germs at the gym

Here are some simple tips to reduce your risk of contact with bacteria and viruses while at the gym:

Wash your hands at before and after your workout

Most of the bacteria and viruses that you might pick up at the gym will be transmitted via your hands.

That’s why it is crucial to wash your hands before and after your workout.

Never eat food after a workout unless you have washed your hands with soap and water.

Take your own clean towel

A clean towel is an essential piece of kit when visiting the gym.

It serves two main purposes – to act as a barrier between you and pieces of gym equipment and to wipe down equipment.

If you like to wipe sweat from your body, take a second towel with you to avoid cross-contamination.

Wipe down equipment

Most gyms will prove you with some wipes and surface cleaner.

If you think the equipment is dirty, use them!

Pay particularly close attention to areas when your skin makes contact with the machine.

Take care in the locker room

Never walk around the locker room in bare feet – wear flip flops instead.

This will prevent you from contracting the germs that cause tinea and plantar warts.

Avoid sitting on any benches unclothed.

Take your own yoga mat and clean it regularly

Avoid using the yoga mats that the gym provides as they are probably covered with germs.

Instead, take your own mat.

You should also clean your mat on a regular basis with a 60% alcohol spray to kill any germs.

Don’t go to the gym when you are sick

If you have already contracted an illness, don’t go to the gym!

You may infect other people and you may even worsen your condition by picking up another bug.

Choose a clean gym

If you are thinking about joining a new gym, take a closer look at the facility’s cleanliness before signing up.

Are the rubbish bins empty?

Are cleaning products available to wipe down equipment?

How clean is the locker room?

Choosing the right gym can help you avoid germs and the illnesses they can cause.

Cover any cuts or broken skin

Cuts and broken skin can be entry points for bacteria and viruses.

Cover any injuries before you visit the gym.

Thanks for reading Avoiding Germs in the Gym.

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Stephen Coleclough
Stephen Coleclough

Stephen Coleclough is a personal trainer and online fitness/nutrition coach from the UK. He loves heavy squats, smashing PRs and bacon sandwiches. You can follow him on Twitter at ColecloughPT.

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