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Germiest Places At The Gym

First Posted: 08/08/11 09:08 AM ET   Updated: 10/08/11 06:12 AM ET

Ever wonder where the most bacteria lurks at your local gym? Peter Sheldon, the vice president of operations at Coverall Cleaning, did, so he and his company researched dozens of gyms to sniff out the top five most germ-friendly spots.

So what lives in these germy places? "You can pick up anything from influenza to the common cold, those are the most common," says Sheldon. "There's also a chance of running into antibiotic-resistant staph infections and MRSA, especially at school gyms," he says.

Be especially careful hitting the gym if you have any open cuts or sores, advises Sheldon, since that can make transmission of infection more likely.

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  • Water Fountains

    "We found more bacteria on the drinking fountains than even on the toilets," says Sheldon. His number one piece of advice is just to bring a pre-filled bottle of water from home. If you do need to refill your water bottle on the gym floor, Sheldon recommends touching the fountain with a towel instead of your hands to avoid germs.

  • Child Care Centers

    If your gym has a child care area, odds are it's not being cleaned properly, if at all, says Sheldon. While there's not a lot you can do to avoid picking up germs that may lurk in the centers, Sheldon suggests going to gym management and asking how the areas are being cleaned. "Putting pressure on the management to institute a cleaning process can be very effective," he says.

  • Weight Machines And Freeweights

    "You almost always see people wiping down cardio equipment -- cardio equipment is generally very clean -- but weight lifting machines and dumbbells are not getting wiped down," says Sheldon. To avoid germs when using weights, make sure to wipe off the equipment before <em>and</em> after you use them. Sheldon also recommends being cognizant of how often you touch your face -- we do it up to 18 times an hour, so if you can scale back at the gym by being aware of the habit, you can reduce your risk of picking anything up.

  • Mats

    "In almost every gym we went into, we found they weren't cleaning the mats at all," says Sheldon. "If you're going to use a mat, the best choice is to bring your own." If you don't own a mat, Sheldon recommends bringing disinfectant wipes or wiping down the mat with disinfectant spray before you use one of the gym's.

  • The Locker Room

    "The floor is the main hot spot in a locker room -- never go barefoot in there," says Sheldon. There are myriad fungal infections you could encounter barefoot in a locker room, warns Sheldon. He also recommends bringing your own shampoo, conditioner and soap if your gym has refillable containers in the shower -- those can be breeding grounds for bacteria. Sheldon also advises avoiding sitting with bare skin anywhere in a locker room. He suggests sitting on a towel instead, and if you're <em>really</em> serious, bringing your own towel, since you can't be sure how the towels are being laundered.