By swabbing objects in three gym locker rooms, a group of researchers from FitRated measured the bacteria based on the colony-forming units—or CFUs—per square inch. The most intense concentrations were on three surfaces you likely touch the most between the time you stash your belongings and the time you towel off: benches, shower handles, and faucet handles (the worst culprit).
According to the results, some—but not all—of the bacteria are completely harmless. Here are all the grimy (and cringe-y) details.
Benches: Of the 8,241 average CFUs found on the benches,12 percent were soil strains that could be either helpful or harmless, and 33 percent were gram-positive cocci, which are known to cause skin infections, pneumonia, and septicemia (a serious infection in your bloodstream).
Shower handles: These tested for an average of 153,279 CFUs—a big jump up from the benches. These bacteria were 89 percent gram-negative rods, which can be resistant to antibiotics and can lead to pneumonia and meningitis, and another 11 percent were the gram-positive variety.
Sink faucets: The faucet handles presented 545,312 average CFUs—more than triple the bacterial load on shower handles. (And even worse: One handle tested for over 7 million CFUs.) The breakdown here included 57 percent gram-negative and 13 percent gram positive.
The researchers point out that, of course, we come in touch with bacteria *all* the time. (It's on our loofahs, our towels, and even our sponges.) Enough strains are harmful enough, though, that you might just consider showering up at home, if you have a choice. And for the love of your cute gym bag—just don't set it down on those benches.
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