Gym Bacteria

Published: March 3 2011


Many worry that fitness centers attract not just people to exercise, but offer bacteria a place to thrive. But a new University of Florida study of bacteria levels on gym equipment offers a surprising result, about what it didn’t find. Researchers tested dumbbells, benches, and other gym equipment for the potentially deadly, antibiotic-resistant MRSA bacteria. Researchers collected 240 samples before and after cleanings at several gyms, three times a day. The results of the tests show no signs of the MRSA bacteria or any other staph infection-causing bacteria in the samples.

Dr. Kathleen Ryan/UF health researcher: “People right now are going around carrying their hand sanitizer in their purse and they are hand-sanitizing everything they touch. Maybe we don’t need to be quite that worried like when you go to the gym and every time you touch something it is a potential source of some horrible bug.”

Experts say gyms could offer breeding grounds for staph infections because they are high traffic areas where bacteria may be present. Most gyms have extensive cleaning programs and offer antibacterial wipes to clean off the equipment before and after use.

Dr. Kathleen Ryan/UF health researcher: “Be careful, be cautious, don’t go around touching anything that may be very soiled. But don’t be really worried that everything that you touch in the world, every door handle, or every piece of equipment is going to be a potential source of an infection.”

Researchers say this study suggests that most community infections are not transmitted from skin-to-surface contact, but rather from skin-to-skin contact.