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Why are gyms at the top of the “Germiest Places” lists? They are there for a good reason: they are packed with a bunch of sweaty bodies in small places. There is no reason for panic: just know what to watch for and what to do and you will be fine.
We live surrounded by germs; they are everywhere. When you go to the gym, you are exposed to germs just like when you go to a hospital. Since eighty percent of germs are transferred by contact, the gym is definitely a hot spot for bacteria. The purpose of the gym is to improve your health, not harm your health.

Plastic Yoga Mats

These communal mats are very germy. Dr. Elizabeth Scott of Simmons College Center for Hygiene and Health tells us that the yoga mat is a personal item, much like a toothbrush, and we shouldn’t share it with others. “I have some data that indicates that skin bacteria can be found on yoga mats,” she says. This includes Staphlococcus aureus and the resistant strain of it, MRSA. Her research concluded that the mats were seldom cleaned and the bacteria on them could cause serious skin infections. “My advice is to bring your own mat,” Dr. Scott concluded.

Peter Sheldon’s company, Coverall Cleaning, did research on dozens of gyms and found that mats were bad news, also. He reports that in almost every gym they investigated, no one was cleaning the mats. He advised that patrons bring their own mats or at least a large towel for floor exercises.


The worst place of all, according to most research, is the shower floor. This is not surprising since water is a breeding ground for most bacteria. According to Tierno, they were ‘innumerable’ organisms on the floor, the walls, and different areas of the shower.

Sheldon warns, “Never go barefoot in there.” This is because he found fungal organisms present and warns that you could get these from going barefoot. He warns, too, to bring your own shampoos, conditioner, and bath gel or soap because the containers in the gym showers are not safe. They were reported as breeding grounds for bacteria.

Exercise Machines

Most people use these, sweat on them, and then hop off. When someone else follows behind you, your germs are exposed to them and they come in contact with them.

In Tierno’s lab at New York University Hospital, they found bacillus on the lateral pull-down machine. This is a microbe that comes from the soil. Other organisms, like E. Coli and Staph aureus, were present as well. On an exercise bike, sarcinia candida was found. No wonder they are bad news, people sit there and sweat leaving behind all the germs that washes off the body as the sweat falls.


Another source of germs in the gym is dumbbells. According to researchers, items that are used by multiple people in sequence without cleaning in between were likely to have high levels of bacteria on them. One microbiologist, Dr. Philip Tierno, found on dumbbells the germs staph aureus, klebsiella, enterobacter, and E. coli, all bacteria that can cause serious illnesses.

Locker Room

This is another hot spot for germs. According to researchers, you should sit on a towel and think seriously about bringing your own towel. This area is rarely cleaned, reports Scott and associates, so be cautious of lurking microbial organisms here.

Drinking Fountains

This is a hot spot in most public places. Sheldon and associates found more bacteria on the fountain than the toilet. He recommends touching the fountain with a towel if it is hand operated. Also, packing in pre-filled bottled water isn’t such a bad idea, either.

Child Care Area

The researchers all warned about the child care area because they reported that many organisms lurked in these centers. If the areas aren’t being cleaned frequently, the children will leave behind bacteria that could be harmful to your child.

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