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Examining Gym Cleanliness


You go to the gym to burn calories, increase your strength, and get fit – but if you’re not careful, you may come home with more than you bargained for. Though many public places can harbor various types of bacteria, fitness facilities in particular can be hotspots for germs. Every time you pick up a weight or grab an exercise bike handle, you could be putting yourself at risk for an illness or infection.

We gathered bacteria samples from 27 different pieces of equipment at three different gyms to get an idea of how many germs you may encounter when you touch a treadmill, exercise bike, or free weight. Check out the graphics below to see what’s lurking at the gym.

Bacteria Levels Per Gym Equipment Type
Just how many germs might you come in contact with when you work out at a fitness facility? We tested the samples we gathered to determine bacteria levels based on colony-forming units (CFU) – the number of viable bacteria cells. And it turns out the average treadmill, exercise bike, and free weight are all teeming with germs – more than 1 million per square inch apiece.

All three types of equipment yielded gram-positive cocci (a common cause of skin infections and other illnesses); gram-negative rods (which can prompt many types of infections and sometimes resist antibiotics), and gram-positive rods (which can – but don’t often – cause various types of infections). The exercise bikes and free weight samples also turned up Bacillus – a potential cause of various conditions, including ear, eye, and respiratory infections.

How Do The Gyms' Bacteria Levels Compare to Other Items?
The implications of millions of germs can be difficult to grasp. To put it in perspective, we compared the bacteria levels we found on various gym equipment with the number of germs typically found on everyday items. The average exercise bike harbors 39 times more bacteria than a cafeteria tray. Typical free weights have 362 times more germs than a toilet seat. And the treadmill you’re running on averages 74 times more bacteria than a typical public bathroom faucet.

Considering the sheer number of people who touch gym equipment in a facility during any given day, it should come as no surprise that the surfaces are less than spotless. So if you work out at the gym regularly, how can you protect yourself? Be sure to disinfect machines both before and after you use them, never walk around barefoot, don’t touch your face, and always wash your hands and change out of your gym clothes immediately after a workout.

Another surefire way to avoid gym germs: Invest in the best home gym equipment so you can work out in the comfort of your own home. At, we’ve taken the guesswork out of choosing workout equipment. Our advice, reviews, and side-by-side comparisons of treadmills, ellipticals, exercise bikes, home gyms, max trainers, treadclimbers etc. can help you find exactly what you want while spending as little as possible – so you can get fit without gym-membership commitments, small talk, and a revolving door of bacteria.


EmLab P&K performed all laboratory testing. The numbers presented are an average of all like samples taken. Samples were collected from three different gym locations. All three gyms are members of chains with locations nationally. Items swabbed in each gym were three treadmills, three exercise bikes, and three free weights.

Less than one percent of organisms found were yeast. We excluded yeast findings from our project because it is not categorized as bacteria.


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