The most unhygienic exercise equipment ranked: and how to protect yourself from germs at the gym

Gym #gains? More like gym #germs.

Ever wondered about the hygiene standards of the equipment at your gym? Well, you were onto something and it ain’t pretty.

Fitness equipment review website Fitrated gathered bacteria samples from three different major chain gyms across 27 different pieces of equipment – three treadmills, three exercise bikes and three free weights.

The samples were then tested to determine bacteria levels based on colony-forming units (CFU) – AKA the number of viable bacteria cells. The results were more than scary:  more than one million germs per square inch on each piece of equipment – talk about gross.

All three pieces of equipment tested positive for gram-positive cocci (a common cause of skin infections and other illnesses); gram-negative rods (which can prompt many types of infections) and gram-positive rods (also infection-causing).

These are the least hygienic pieces of equipment:

1. The treadmill: 1,333,432 CFU

Surprisingly the treadmill came out on top with average of 74 times more bacteria than a tap in a public toilet. As the equipment with arguably the least skin to skin contact we were shocked to find it ranked number one, however, bacteria doesn’t lie.

2. Exercise bike: 1,333,418 CFU

Not far behind is the gym favourite exercise bike. Make sure to wipe down your bike pre and post-spin class to avoid the spread of bactreia !

3. Free weights: 1,158,381 CFU.

Typical free weights had 362 times more germs than a toilet seat!

So, what can you do to protect your skin?

In addition to the obvious (hand sanitization and wiping equipment down before use), a few extra minutes in the changing room can make all the difference to your skin. Follow the below skincare rules for a hydrated, balanced and blemish-free complexion.

Hands off

Healthy skin post-workout starts before you even step off the treadmill. While we like to think everyone is as courteous as us, more often than not, weights and machines don’t get wiped down or sanitised after use. The gym is a breeding ground for nasty bacteria that can easily spread to your face.

The best line of defence is to exercise restraint and keep your hands off your face. Make sure to also pull your hair tightly back as sweaty strands can further spread bacteria and clog pores.

Gently does it

The biggest mistake people make during and after a workout is being too aggressive with their skin! Don’t rub your face with your scratchy gym towel or abrasively over-scrub skin. Too much exfoliation can dehydrate your skin and exacerbate acne. Instead, wash away sweat with a gentle anti-bacterial cleanser.


Use toner to restore your skin’s pH levels back to normal and minimise the chance of breakouts. Apply a few drops to a cotton disc and sweep over the face in circular motions post-workout.


While you might feel like an oil slick, exercise actually drains your skin of moisture. If possible, after cleansing, quench your skin with a moisturiser to replenish water lost during your workout. If you are breakout-prone, opt for an oil-free lotion.


Whether it’s hot yoga or a brisk walk, any activity that amps up your heart rate should be followed by water. A comprehensive skincare regimen is all well and good but the real key to complexion perfection is H2O. Make sure to keep hydrated post-workout to give your skin the best chance to recover and flush out any bacteria you’ve come into contact with.

Clean your screen

If you listen to music at the gym, chances are your bacteria-riddled mitts have been all over your phone screen. There’s no point sanitizing your hands only to touch your screen and get bacteria all over them again. 

This article originally appeared on beautyheaven.

Words: Erin Berryman
Photos: Getty Images