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Study finds free weights in gyms had 362 times more germs than the average toilet seat

Study finds free weights in gyms had 362 times more germs than the average toilet seat
April 27, 2016

A recent study of hygiene in US gyms has revealed that free weights examined had 362 times more germs than the average toilet seat.

The study by US-based gym equipment comparison website FitRated gathered bacteria samples from 27 different pieces of equipment at three different gyms. The study revealed bacteria cells of more than more than 1 million per square inch on theaverage treadmill, exercise bike, and free weight.

FitRated’s studt showed that 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.

While Australasian Leisure Management is unaware of studies of hygiene in Australian fitness clubs, it has made reference to several US studies conducted over recent years.

A 2013 study by University of California Irvine found that even after being sanitised twice a day, germs in gyms can survive on hard surfaces for 72 hours.

According to the IDEA Health & Fitness Association, research has found that gym equipment regularly carries germs like E. coli, Candida and Staphylococcus and skin diseases like human papillomavirus.

Unclean gyms can also put off current and potential customers.

A survey by Cintas Corporation, which we reported on last year, found that the top cleaning issues that deterred people from using gyms included lack of cleaning products to wipe down equipment, dusty surfaces, dirty changing rooms and unpleasant smells.

Infectious disease expert Professor Allen Cheng, from Monash University, said he had not seen any evidence from Australia of MRSA being spread through a gym environment.

Professor Cheng told the ABC "community-acquired MRSA seems to be a bigger problem in the US ... they have a lot more MRSA in general and it seems to have spilled out of their hospitals a lot earlier than it did in Australia.

"But in general, MRSA is sort of a declining problem in Australia – it's one of the rare success stories we've had with reducing the antibiotic resistance."

Professor Cheng added there was very little evidence that gyms were responsible for the spread of serious diseases in Australia.

However, he did highlight that gastro is an illness easily contracted in a gym setting, stating "it's a virus that is well known to be able to survive on surfaces.

"This is the same bug that causes outbreaks on cruise ships quite regularly and that's because it's hard to clean and hard to disinfect."

Joel Perricone, Fitness Australia’s Business Services and Relationships Manager said concerns about hygiene was the most common reason for people to end their gym membership.

Perricone added that members concerned about gym hygiene should address issues with gym management, stating “iIt is difficult, but reporting it to the manager or the owner of the facility to rectify it is probably the most effective way.”

Tips to ensure better hygiene in your fitness facility:

Ensure users/members use clean towels: As towels are often used as a barrier between exerciser’s bodies and the equipment, sweat will be absorbed, so the next person to use the equipment doesn't have to deal with it. 
Users should wash their towels between each gym visit, as warm damp areas are a breeding ground for bacteria.
Wipe down the equipment: Is your gym providing wipes and surface cleaners? If yes, make sure your members use them to wipe down equipment before use and, as a courtesy to the next person, after use.
Ensure that members wear thongs in the shower: This helps protects them from the germs that cause tinea and plantar warts, often found in these environments.
Make sure yoga/fitness mats are cleaned regularly: Germs can collect on a yoga mat if not cleaned between uses. Ensure they are wiped down between each use, and given a proper clean once a week.
Hand washing: As with many other life situations, members shouldregulartly wash their hands – and that applies after gym visits to get rid of germs picked up on gym surfaces and help protect yourself against viral gastro.
Don't use the gym when sick: Try to ensure that members sick with the flu, gastro or other contagious illnesses don't come to the gym, as germs left on contact surfaces can easily spread to others.

Click here for more information on the FitRated gym hygiene study.

Images used for illustrative purposes only.

23rd February 2016 - FITNESS CLUBS FACE ONGOING HYGIENE BATTLE

19th October 2015 - FORMER CLEANEVENT EXECUTIVE ADMITS AUSTRALIAN WORKERS UNION DEAL SAVED $1.5 MILLION

21st January 2015 - STUDY FINDS DIRTY GYMS TURN AWAY MEMBERS

14th December 2011 - HOW CLEAN IS YOUR POOL DECK?

3rd December 2011 - FOCUS ON GOOD MANNERS IN THE GYM


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