Hit the gym to pick up some weights, and you just might come down with the flu.
City dwellers are well aware of the grime that lives on just about everything — good luck, kid who licked the pole in a subway car — but gyms, those paragons of human health, aren’t the exception we all like to think. It’s basic logic: People are sweaty, people touch gym equipment. People are lazy; people don’t clean gym equipment. That’s not even mentioning the plethora of public transit germs they bring in when they walk through the door.
But even if you knew the gym wasn’t the cleanest place in the city, we would bet you couldn’t guess the dirtiest piece of gym equipment. No, it’s not the ever-popular treadmill or stationary bike. It’s not even the weight machines that require you to plant your sweaty bum where someone else was getting steamy seconds before.
Fitrated.com teamed up with EmLab P&K to swab 27 pieces of gym equipment at three different gym chains to collect data on the types and concentration of germs giving your immune system a workout as you sweat. While the treadmill had the highest concentration of gram-positive cocci, a common cause of skin infections and pneumonia, the free weights tested off the charts for gram-negative rods, nasty buggers that cause many different types of infections and can be resistant to antibiotics. In fact, 90 to 95 percent of this type of bacteria are harmful to humans.
Wait for the real kicker before you run for that hand sanitizer: The free weights you swear by for swole biceps boast 362 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. (Cardio lovers, your go-to treadmill has 74 times more bacteria than what you’ll find on a water faucet, by the way.)
While we’re certainly not encouraging you to ditch the daily sweat session, we are urging you to wash your hands. Maybe use those wipes they provide at most gyms before and after pumping some iron or logging some miles. And for the love of protein powder, do not rub your eyes between sets of rows.