The 4 Germiest Places at the Gym

There's no sense panicking about germs--they're everywhere. But, it is good to know where germs are more likely to congregate, isn't it? Here's what you need to know about the germiest places at the gym....

Today Kim over at Little Miss Fortune is blogging about the value of gym memberships and whether it's cool to pay a small fortune for one. Do you work out at a gym? They frequently make "germiest places in America" lists, and it's easy to see why: pack a bunch of sweaty, sparsely clothed bodies into tight spaces and you'll get germs--lots of them. But there are places that germs are more likely to congregate, say experts. Here are the germiest zones:

*Public yoga mats. Beware of communal yoga mats, say experts. According to Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D., the co-director of the Simmons College Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community Settings, who I spoke to for this Vitamin G post, a yoga mat--like a pillow--is a personal item we probably shouldn't share. "I have some data that indicates that skin bacteria, including Staph aureus and the resistant strain, MRSA, can be found on yoga mats," she says. "Our studies indicate that these mats are seldom, if ever, cleaned. These bacteria can cause serious skin infections if they gain access via any small breaks in the skin. My advice is to bring your own mat, or at least a large towel to put between you and the mat."

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*Dumbbells. According to this article from ABC News, equipment that is used by multiple people in quick sequences, like dumbbells, harbor the most germs. Go ahead and use them, of course, but remember to wash your hands afterward.

*Exercise bike seats. It's no wonder why they're germy--people sit there and sweat! Yeah, it might be a good idea to sanitize that bad boy before spinning class.

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*Locker room showers and floors. No surprise here. Experts who tested gym shower floors found shocking amounts of germs in gym bathrooms: "Unfortunately, germs do survive in the shower, on walls, and on the floor," said Dr. Philip Tierno, a microbiologist. "I found it in hordes--unbelievable quantities. We use the word 'innumerable.' Innumerable."

OK, so not every "germ" that congregates on any of these places is going to make you sick--in fact, most won't. But, experts note that if germs tend to flock to a certain place, it increases the chance that harmful pathogens can to.

Speaking of all of this, I asked you a while back about whether you wipe down the fitness equipment after each use, and many said yes. But here's the funny thing: Most said they don't wipe them down before use. I was really surprised by this--the fact that you're protecting others from germs, but not yourself. Hmm.

Do you worry about germs at the gym?