The Nastiest Spot in Your Gym & Your Kitchen

Nothing wrecks your training faster than infections and food poisoning. Here’s where you’re picking up the bad bugs.

There’s nothing more frustrating than having the desire to train and being stuck at home with a respiratory infection, or worse, a case of diarrhea so bad it could be a Jennifer Lawrence movie. For lifters and people who cook their own healthy foods, here’s where the nasty bugs breed.

In the Gym

Bad news for lifters – it’s the free weight section. And it’s not necessarily from the benches; it’s the handles of dumbbells and barbells.

Think about it. The flat surfaces get wiped down, but how often do you disinfect the dumbbell handles before using them? Does the staff even do this? Probably not often.

Equipment retailer FitRated tested 27 different pieces of gym equipment. The average dumbbell had 362 times more germs than the gym’s toilet seats… where sweaty naked butts go. The bacteria strains found on free weights are the varieties that cause skin, eye, ear, and respiratory infections, and they’re often antibiotic resistant.

Treadmills and exercise bikes were crawling with critters too. Treadmills harbored 74 times more bacteria than the water faucet in the bathroom, and the bikes had 39 times more bacteria than reusable plastic trays used in school cafeterias. Ew.

While the study didn’t mention machines, also be wary of the handles. Sure, the hamstring curl’s vinyl surfaces get wiped down, but not always the grab handles tucked beneath it.

So, wipe down equipment with the disinfectant spray usually provided by the gym. Easy enough. But here’s what most people miss: don’t touch your face either – especially your eyes, nose, and mouth – while training.

Other infected areas of your gym include some obvious and not-so-obvious spots:

  • Stability balls – MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria, has been found there.
  • Medicine balls
  • Shared yoga and stretching mats
  • Changing room benches – Sweaty naked butts sit there too, but benches get cleaned less often than toilet seats.
  • Public gym towels. Even if they’ve been washed, they’re sometimes hauled around in the same hamper used for the dirty towels. Bring your own towel or be ready to do battle with E. coli.
  • Tiffany. She has crabs. Stay away from Tiffany, guys.

In the Kitchen

It’s easy to blame those grimy bastards at your gym who don’t wipe down their benches and machines, but you’re probably making yourself sick too.

A study from the American Society for Microbiology found the main culprit: cloth kitchen towels. The larger your family, the more humid the weather, and the more meats you prepare, the more food-poisoning pathogens these towels accumulate.

So buy a lot of dish cloths and switch them out often, or use paper towels for the nastiest clean-ups.

On a related note, many eco-warriors bring their own shopping bags to the grocery store to cut down on plastic and paper bag usage. The problem? They don’t disinfect or wash their “green” bags and they get sick from the bacteria that can build up in there from leaky foods. So toss your hippie-hemp bags into the washer and clean out your recycled plastic bags often with soap and water.




  1. American Society for Microbiology. “Kitchen towels could contribute to the growth of potential pathogens that cause food poisoning.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 June 2018.