The dirtiest places in the gym from treadmills to water fountains

Below is an interesting article from Ashley Laderer – Insider
Jun 16, 2020

As an industry we cannot ignore this information which is in the public domain. It is a message the industry has to address with clear and concise actions, marketing and communication as we approach reopening of gyms

Cardio equipment, like treadmills, stationary bikes, and ellipticals, are some of the germiest places in the gym.

You should also be wary of weight balls and weight equipment.

Water fountains are also particularly bacteria-laden, so take precautions when drinking from a communal fountain.

This article was medically reviewed by Tania Elliott, MD, who specializes in infectious diseases related to allergies and immunology for internal medicine at NYU Langone Health.

Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

Hitting the gym is great for both your physical and mental health. However, the gym is also full of germs.

Though sweat itself does not carry germs, exercise machines are hotbeds of bacteria. But there are some places in the gym that are more infested than others. These are the dirtiest, germiest places in the gym and how to keep yourself safe from infection.


Cardio equipment is particularly loaded with germs. In 2017, a company that reviews fitness equipment, called Fit Rated, conducted an investigation where it analyzed bacteria samples from 27 pieces of equipment across three different gyms. Fit Rated found the largest number of germs on treadmills, where there was 1,333,432 colony forming units (CFU) per square inch. This is 74 times more bacteria than is found on a bathroom sink faucet, according to the report.

The most prevalent bacteria were gram-positive cocci, a category that can cause skin infections, pneumonia, and sepsis, among other infections.

Another study published in 2014 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that treadmills also harbor bacillaceae, another type of gram-positive bacteria that can cause infections like meningitis.

Stationary bikes

The Fit Rated experiment found stationary bikes to be almost as germy as the treadmill, with 1,333,418 CFU per square inch. Like the treadmill, the most prevalent bacteria was gram-positive cocci.


The elliptical also carries a lot of germs. According to the study in the Journal of Environmental Research, the most prominent type of bacteria found on ellipticals is staphylococcus, which represented 52.7% of the bacterial load. This kind of bacteria is responsible for staph infections, which lead to skin abscesses. Enterobacter was also prominent, which can cause respiratory infections and urinary tract infections.

Weight balls

A 2019 study published in BMC Infectious Diseases, analyzed bacteria samples from 288 surfaces across 16 fitness facilities in Northeast Ohio and found that weight balls were the germiest surface. 62.5% of weight ball samples tested positive for staph.

According to Mark Dalman PhD, associate professor at Kent State University and leader of the study, staph bacteria was the focus of this study since MRSA –staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics – tends to be found in high contact businesses such as athletic centers and gyms.

Weight equipment

The Fit Rated study found free weights to harbor high amounts of bacteria, with 1,158,381 CFU. That’s 362 times more germs than a toilet seat, according to Fit Rated.

But instead of gram-positive bacteria like that found on treadmills and ellipticals, researchers found gram-negative rods. Certain strains of gram-negative bacteria can cause pneumonia, skin infections, and blood infections.

Dalman’s 2019 study in BMC Infectious Diseases also found weight plates and cable-driven curl bars to be high in staphylococcus germs, meaning that weight-related equipment in general is very germy.

Water fountains

It’s not just exercise equipment. The 2019 study published in BMC Infectious Diseases found gym water fountains to be loaded with germs, too. The study concluded that there was more staphylococcus present on the water fountain than bathroom doors and bathroom sink handles. Dalman says this could be related to the fact that there are far more patrons than water fountains, so there’s higher contact. “One or two central water fountains with potentially 50 or more people who aren’t washing their hands before taking a swig of water is an issue,” says Dalman.

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