Is Your Gym Harmful to Your Health?

Popular gym equipment high in bacteria

gym germs

How ironic that the very place you go to keep your body fit and healthy could actually make you sick.  Fitness facilities are mega-hot spots for germs, from the front door to the locker room and all places in between. And with a staggering 58 million people annually using health clubs, there are plenty of chances for you to pick up a virus left behind by a fellow gym-goer.

Warm, moist conditions in gyms make ideal breeding grounds for germs to grow and spread.  To find out just how many germs we come in contact with, tested samples from 27 different pieces of gym equipment at three different gyms. Three treadmills, three exercise bikes, and three free weights at each gym were swabbed to determine bacteria levels based on colony-forming units (CFU). CFUs estimate the number of viable bacteria in a sample, in this case per square inch. Turns out you’re sharing equipment with much more than other club members:

Bacteria levels found:

  1. Treadmill: 1,333,432 CFU per square inch
  2. Exercise Bike: 1,333,418 CFU per square inch
  3. Free Weight: 1,158,381 CFU per square inch

examining-germs-gymWhile the overall levels discovered are incredibly high, the scarier facts lie in the types of bacteria detected and their numbers, as illustrated in the infographic. The two most potentially harmful types of bacteria comprise over 70% of bacteria found overall.

Gram-positive cocci, bacteria that are a common cause of skin infections (e.g. Staphylococcus) and other illnesses was found on all three pieces of equipment, with treadmills possessing the highest counts.

Free weights had the highest concentration of gram-negative rods, but were found on all equipment tested. 90-95% of this kind of bacteria (e.g. E. coli) are harmful and can be resistant to antibiotics.

Bacillus, a bacteria sometimes associated with ear, eye, respiratory and other infections, was found on both exercise bikes and free weights. then compared the bacteria levels on the gym equipment to other common hot spots and the results are nothing short of shocking. On average, free weights have 362 times more bacteria than a public toilet seat, treadmills contain 74 times more bacteria than a public water faucet and exercise bikes were found to have 39 times more bacteria than a cafeteria food tray!

Don’t throw in the towel though – there are easy and simple ways to protect yourself at the gym and enjoy your workout. Adopt habits such as:

  1. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  2. Always wipe equipment and machines before and after use, including mats and cardio machines. Bring your own wipes if the gym doesn’t supply them.
  3. After working out, wash hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  4. Always wear flip-flops in the shower and locker room.

For even more tips check out the Top Five Most Disgusting Places in the Gym.

If you manage or own a health club, gym or spa, consider the Coverall® Program to help keep your fitness facility in tip-top shape. Our franchised business owners use professional advanced cleaning techniques and tools that focus on killing and removing germs, disinfecting high touch points, and providing a cleaner, healthier facility for you and your members.


Coverall North America, Inc. and its Master Franchisees license and support more than 8,000 independently owned and operated franchised commercial cleaning businesses worldwide under the Coverall® name and System. Franchise offers made through prospectus only.

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