First, a trigger warning for germophobes. This isn't gonna be pretty. It seems that some of your go-to fitness gear at the gym actually contains more bacteria — way more — than a public toilet seat. Disgusting, right?
Researchers with EllipticalReviews.com swabbed equipment from four popular fitness classes — the wooden bar from barre classes, barbells from CrossFit, resistance knobs from indoor cycling bikes and mats from hot yoga — and then measured the number of colony-forming units (CFU) per square centimeter.
The results? Sorry, CrossFitters, but those barbells were the germiest things tested, containing more than 153,000 CFUs, which is about 300 times more than what you'd find on your average toilet seat.
As for yoga mats, they harbored close to 26,000 CFUs, or 52 times the toilet-seat total. (For those of you keeping score at home, toilet seats contain 3,200 CFUs per square inch, or 496 CFUs per square centimeter.) Fortunately for Spin and barre devotees, the amount of bacteria on bike knobs and wooden bars was negligible (13.3 and 10 CFUs, respectively).
Of course, this isn't the first time gym equipment has been called out for being a hotbed of bacteria. Last year, Fitrated.com collected samples from 27 different pieces of workout equipment and found that free weights, treadmills and exercise bikes all failed the toilet-seat test: They had between 362 and 416 times more bacteria than the porcelain throne.
So does this mean you should skip the gym altogether? Experts say not to sweat the results too much. After Fitrated.com released its findings, Real Simple talked to Philip M. Tierno, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and pathology at the School of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York and author of "The Secret Life of Germs."
"It's not a surprising thing, nor is it alarming," said Tierno in response to the microbe counts. Plus, while the study identified four general types of bacteria present in the samples, it didn't pinpoint any specific pathogens that could make you sick.
"While there is potential of harmful bacteria present, it's not a given that you're going to be infected," he said. "You can reduce that possibility by washing your hands prior to touching conduits of entry into your body." (Think your nose, mouth and eyes.)
Other tips for minimizing germ exposure? Obviously, bring your own yoga mat and disinfect any equipment with a sanitary wipe before using it — and afterward, if you want to do your fellow gymgoers a solid.
In the end, your risk of getting sick from gym germs is extremely low. Plus, if it's any consolation, your computer keyboard is way dirtier than anything you'd touch while working out. Good times!
What Do YOU Think?
Are you surprised by how germy barbells and yoga mats are? Do you typically wipe down equipment before using it? Will these results convince you to start? Share your thoughts in the comments below!