4 Things At The Gym That Seem Gross, But Are Actually Totally Fine

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There's been a lot of talk lately about the gross germs you're exposed to at the gym, however it's important to put that information into context. Some gross things you'll find at the gym actually aren't that bad compared to items you come into contact with every day. Like your phone, keyboard, and seats, doors and railings on public transportation. Even your kitchen sponge is home to a thriving bacteria farm. It's true that studies have shown that gym equipment is covered in bacteria that can potentially make you sick, but you're also more likely to be vigilant about avoiding these germs at the gym than you are about cleaning your phone, which is filthy AF BTW.

What's more, a 2014 study published in the journal Building and Environment found that the dirtiest thing at the gym is actually the air, not the treadmills, yoga mats, or exercise balls. That's right, the dust and chemicals in the air actually pose a greater health risk than gym equipment, which means you might want to ask about a gym's ventilation system before you sign your life away to that gym membership. There are some other things at the gym that can be perceived as gross that actually aren't gross at all, like these things that get a bad rap.


Going Commando

It's likely been drilled into your head since you were old enough to understand words that you should always wear underwear, but a lot of people prefer to go commando at the gym, and it's actually not gross at all. "As long as what you’re wearing is thick enough so you don’t get any bacteria that’s on a seat at the gym, [going commando] is sanitary," Raquel Dardik, M.D., an OB/GYN at NYU Langone Medical Center, told Greatist. Just like with underwear, don't go commando in the same pair of leggings or gym shorts two days in a row without washing them because that actually is gross.


Gym Equipment

OK, I'm going to contradict myself here. Gym equipment is hella gross, and studies have shown that it's covered with bacteria that can make you sick. However, myriad factors determine if you'll actually get sick at the gym. For example, you're probably more aware of germs at the gym than you are of germs in your own home, which means you're washing your hands a lot more after you work out than after you use your computer. What's more, if you're healthy and practice good gym hygiene, you most likely don't have anything to worry about.

"While there is potential of harmful bacteria present, it’s not a given that you’re going to be infected," Dr. Philip M. Tierno, professor of microbiology and pathology at the School of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York and author of The Secret Life of Germs, told Real Simple. "You can reduce that possibility by washing your hands prior to touching conduits of entry into your body."


The Toilet Seat

Yep, the toilet seats in your gym are cleaner than any of the equipment that you use to workout. In fact, a study by FitRated found that free weights have over 300 times more bacteria than a public toilet seat. But, before you freak out, let's go back to number two. As long as you wash your hands and don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth while working out, you're going to be just fine. And, your phone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat and might even contain E.coli, so in the grand scheme of things toilets just might be the cleanest thing you'll use at the gym, or anywhere else for that matter.


Putting Gym Germs Into Context

Consider for a moment that just because you're only now hearing about how germ ridden the gym is, that doesn't mean that this is a new thing. The gym has always been full of germs. As long as you practice good gym hygiene, the gym isn't really that gross at all. On his blog, Dr. Joseph Mercola said you shouldn't let germs scare you away from the gym. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

"This shouldn’t make you think twice about getting in your workout, not even for one second. To avoid going to the gym for fear of germs would mean you’d also need to avoid the grocery store, hotel rooms, restaurants, and, while you’re at it, even your own home. You simply can’t escape bacteria and viruses. They’re everywhere, and that’s not necessarily as scary as it sounds."

Unless you plan to encase yourself in a plastic bubble for the rest of your life, you're always going to come into contact with germs, and this can actually help you build up resistance against them, according to Stanford Medicine. The bottom line? Be smart about the gym. Wash your hands, cover up any cuts, stay home if you're sick, and with a little soap and common sense you'll get through this whole gym-germ thing like a boss.