The place in the gym that's dirtier than a toilet

Sarah Carty
Features & Style Editor
Gyms are a breeding ground for bacteria. Photo: Getty Images

Germaphobes look away now because it turns out your gym may be riddled with life-threatening bacteria.

If you ever sigh in disgust when people sweat all over the equipment and simply move on to the next one without wiping a single thing down, then you’re probably right that they’re spreading a lot of germs around.

Researchers at Kent State University, Ohio swabbed dozens of gyms for evidence of Staphylococcus aureus – an infection that causes boils, eczema, acne and rosacea – as well as the dreaded ‘methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus’ – aka superbug MRSA.

They took Eighteen samples from the’ most-touched’ surfaces in 16 traditional gyms, community centre gyms, crossfit gyms and fitness facilities inside hospitals, across Northeast Ohio.

Shockingly, they found that gym weight balls, crossfit boxes and treadmill handles had more traces of drug-resistant bugs than gym toilet doors or sink handles. Gross!

If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t bring their own water bottle with them, then you might think again after reading this, because water fountains came out on top for the most germ-ridden item that wasn’t gym equipment.

Of all the equipment tested, researchers found that tires and rope attachment curls were the least contaminated with S. aureus.

“Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterium found in the nose and throat of healthy individuals and presents risk factors for infection and death,” Dr Mark Dalman, of Kent State University, Ohio, said.

“We found the most commonly colonised surfaces were the weight ball, cable driven curl bar and CrossFit box (all at 62.5 percent contamination), as well as the weight plates (56.3 per cent) and treadmill handles (50 per cent).”

Researchers at Kent State University, Ohio swabbed dozens of gyms for evidence of Staphylococcus aureus – an infection that causes boils, eczema, acne and rosacea – as well as the dreaded ‘methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus’ – aka superbug MRSA. Photo: Getty Images

He went on to say that it was interesting that bathroom levers and door handles in both the female and male toilets were the least contaminated surfaces they tested.

According to Neel Patel, a specialist with Australian domestic and business maintenance services firm Fantastic Services, ‘gyms are breeding grounds for bacteria’.

“Many people don’t bother to wipe down gym equipment before they use it, but disinfectant and paper towels are always available in gyms, and they’re there for a reason.

“A proper clean of equipment will reduce the amount of bacteria a person comes into contact with, and can limit their chances of picking up a bug or infection.”

The most common way MRSA can be spread is from hands, but it can also be spread from people sharing items like towels or razors.

It’s advised to wash hands with soap and water or use a gel hand sanitiser to avoid the spread of the bacteria.

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