You go to the gym to shrink your love handles and get healthy, but could your favorite facility be making you sick? The folks at fitness equipment review website, FitRated, think it’s a definite possibility. To find out just how grimy the average gym is, FitRated gathered bacteria samples from 27 different pieces of equipment at three different national gym chains—and what they found was pretty disturbing: The treadmills, bikes, and weights were all swarming with bacteria cells. In fact, they all have over 1 million colony-forming units (CFU) per square inch! And we’re not talking about the harmless types of bacteria, either. The type lurking inside your gym can cause skin infections and illnesses.
To put the colossal amounts of bacteria living inside your gym into perspective, FitRated compared the levels to those of everyday items. The average exercise bike, for example, houses 1.3 million CFU, or 39 times more bacteria than a cafeteria tray. The average treadmill harbors around 1.3 million CFU or 74 times more bacteria than a typical public bathroom faucet. And typical free weights like dumbbells and kettlebells? Those were found to have 362 times more bacteria than a family toilet. Gross, right?
There is a bit of good news, though. There’s no need to ditch your dreams of bulging biceps and flat abs to keep the germs away! To stay safe, FitRated recommends disinfecting all fitness equipment both before and after you use them. You should also avoid walking around barefoot or touching your face while breaking a sweat or changing in the locker room. Oh, and this is non-negotiable: Always wash your hands and change out of your gym clothes immediately after you workout. It’s the best way to keep those potentially health-threatening germs out of your home.