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A Healthier You

Your gym is teeming with invisible members: Germs


(Washington Post) – Studies have found that the surfaces of treadmills, weight machines and other typical gym equipment are teeming with bacteria and other infectious germs. Here’s how to lower your exposure to the most dangerous and prevalent germs without freaking out so much that you stop going to the gym.

If asked where you’re most likely to encounter infectious agents such as staphylococcus (a.k.a. staph, responsible for a range of potentially fatal infections) or salmonella (which infect the intestinal tract), you would probably think of public bathrooms, hospitals or office kitchens. You might be surprised to learn just how many germs are in gyms, where you go to get healthy, not sick.

Consider research published in 2014 on fitness centers in Memphis. Staph bacteria were found on the surface of every piece of exercise equipment tested, including free weights, weight machines, ellipticals, stationary bikes and treadmills. In all, 25 types of bacteria were found in the four gyms tested. In this study and others, staph stands out as the bacteria with the most potent prevalence-danger combination.

2019 study of 16 gyms in northeast Ohio focused on one strain of staph bacteria, S. aureus, and its variant, methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), which is resistant to antibiotics and is estimated to result in 11,000 deaths a year in the United States. Of 288 samples taken in the gyms, 38 percent contained S. aureus. Medicine balls (62.5 percent), CrossFit boxes (also 62.5 percent), weight plates (56.3 percent) and treadmill handles (50 percent) were the most common sites. Of areas tested, toilet handles had the lowest incidence, 18.8 percent.

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