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Your gym’s free weights may have 300x more bacteria than a toilet seat

Photo: Scott Webb/Unsplash
Photo: Scott Webb/Unsplash

All those gym signs reminding sweaty bench-pressers to “wipe down equipment after using?” Yeah, they may not be quite effective enough.

FitRated looked into the cleanliness of gyms by gathering bacteria samples from 27 different pieces of equipment at three different gyms, and their findings weren’t pretty. Turns out, the average treadmill, exercise bike, and free weight are all crawling with germs—more than 1 million per square inch apiece. (BRB, showering immediately.)

The analysis found that the average set of free weights have 362 times more germs than a toilet seat, and a treadmill averages 74 times more bacteria than a public bathroom faucet.

And, no, these aren’t the good bacteria we’re always trying to grow in our guts: FitRated found gram-positive cocci (a common cause of skin infections and even septicemia) and gram-negative rods (which can be antibiotic-resistant). All in all, 70 percent of the bacteria FitRated found is potentially harmful to humans.

While the numbers aren’t necessarily surprising considering how many people hit the gym daily, getting your workout in shouldn’t make you feel icky. FitRated advises disinfecting machines before and after use, never walking around the gym barefoot, avoiding touching your face (wipe that sweat with a towel, not your hand!), washing hands often, and changing out of your gym clothes as soon as your workout is over.

And maybe BYO wipes to use before and after every spin on the stationary bike. That’s it, we’re gonna need a bigger gym bag.

No time to shower? Here are 17 tips on getting really clean, post-gym