7 Secrets to Avoid Germs at the Gym (Is That Treadmill Dirtier Than a Toilet?)

January 22, 2018


Do you wipe down the equipment every time you hop on an exercise bike, pick up a dumbbell, or run on a treadmill at the gym? Maybe you should.

Whether it’s flu season or not, your local fitness center is a hotbed of germs. While you’ll find illness-causing bacteria in almost every public place, gyms in particular harbor nasty bugs you can catch. In a new study by FitRated, many pieces of gym equipment tested were dirtier than your typical toilet seat or public bathroom faucet. You might want to wash those hands.

Gyms Are Teeming with Bacteria

FitRated usually publishes expert reviews of gym equipment, kind of like a Consumer Reports for the fitness world. They swabbed three different types of equipment at three different gyms to test the levels of bacteria: treadmills, exercise bikes, and free weights.

Bacteria is measured in the number of viable cells or colony-forming units (CFUs), and the study tested four different types: Bacillus, Gram-positive cocci, Gram-positive rods, and Gram-negative rods. While some bacteria are helpful to humans, over 70% of the strains they identified at the gym are not.

The gym equipment was covered in bacteria – over 1 million CFUs per square inch. Here’s what they found:

  • Free Weights: 1,158,381 CFUs – 362 times more bacteria than a toilet bowl.

  • Treadmills: 1,333,432 CFUs – 74 times more bacteria than a public bathroom faucet

  • Exercise Bikes: 1,333,418 CFUs – 39 times more bacteria than a reusable cafeteria tray

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