Exercise isn’t the only thing you can get at the gym. You may also pick up some unseen, unwanted and potentially dangerous germs.

Fitness centers often supply rags and sanitizing solutions throughout their facility, encouraging guests to wipe down equipment after use. Most people are pretty good about wiping cardio machines down, so the spread of germs in this part of the gym isn’t that threatening.

It’s the little things, the equipment you don’t generally think about wiping down, that can get you sick. And what equipment might that be, you ask? Basketballs and volleyballs.

Think about it…how often have you sanitized a basketball before or after playing? It touches the ground and lots of sweaty hands, so of course it gets all germed up.

A study from researchers at the University of California, Irvine, focused on Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause staph infections in athletes. Researchers analyzed basketballs, volleyballs, players’ hands, and the gym floor in several phases of the study.

In each phase, two of the three surfaces were sterilized and the third was left alone. As the players simulated actual game play, the sterilized surfaces accumulated more and more S. aureus. The researchers also discovered that S. aureus could survive on basketballs and volleyballs for up to 72 hours in storerooms.

germy gym equipment, sanitizer, bacteria

So what are some of the other germiest places at the gym?

Peter Sheldon, VP of operations at Coverall Cleaning did some research with his company and found the top five germ-ridden spots at the gym:

  • Water Fountains
    • Their study found more bacteria on the drinking fountains than on the toilets.
  • Child Care Area
    • This is no surprise with all the germs kids can carry.
  • Weight Machines and Free Weights
    • While cardio equipment is typically pretty clean, weight lifting machines and dumbbells don’t get wiped down as frequently.
  • Exercise/Yoga Mats
    • In almost every gym they went into, Sheldon and his team found that they weren’t cleaning the mats at all.
  • Locker Rooms
    • The floor is a breeding ground for potential fungal infections, and the refillable soap containers in the showers can also harbor bacteria.

Want to check this for yourself? Take a couple of our Tryptic Soy-Rose Bengal Dipslides to the gym with you next time. Gently press both sides of the paddle (2x per side) to some of the gym equipment. Let them sit at room temperature for 3-5 days, and see what grows. We’re guessing you’re not going to like what you find.

So what did we learn today?

Bring a bottle of water from home, ask your gym about cleaning practices in the childcare area if you use those facilities, wipe down all equipment before and after use, and never go barefoot in the locker room!