Germs in gyms: Which popular machine is the germiest?

Are there enough germs in gyms to make you sick? And which place in the gym has the most? Armed with germ meter and test swabs, Jeff Rossen investigates.
by Jeff Rossen and Conor Ferguson / / Source: TODAY

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With New Year's resolutions in force, many of us are hitting the gym. Trouble is, we're doing it right in the middle of cold and flu season.

Get Jeff Rossen's new book, “Rossen to the Rescue,” here.

Of course, people are supposed to wipe gym equipment down when they're done with it. But how many people really do? And just how many germs are they leaving behind?

"The thing people don't realize is, if you're working out, if you think about it, you rub your eyes, you rub your nose, you scratch your mouth, that's how the bacteria germs get into your body," said NBC medical correspondent Dr. John Torres. "Once they get in to your body, you get the flu or whatever is there."

Armed with a germ meter and test swabs, TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen visited a popular gym to test for the general presence of germs. On his meter, any reading over 100 was a fail.

On the free weights, Rossen measured 242; on the mats, 248. A reading from the elliptical came in at 268, nearly three times the acceptable level of bacteria.

Jeff Rossen tests free weights for germs.
Jeff Rossen tests free weights for germs.TODAY

But the biggest surprise came from perhaps the most popular machine in the gym: the treadmill. On its buttons Rossen found a startling bacteria level of 2,134.

"Not only is it gross, but if it's staph or MRSA [a strain of staphylococcus resistant to antibiotics], or even worse, it can get you sick," Torres said. "It can also be deadly."

So how can you make sure you don't get sick?

  • Make sure to wipe down equipment before and after you use it.
  • In case other people don't, always wash your hands before and after a workout.
  • Bring your own stretching mat: That way you know it's clean.

To suggest a topic for an upcoming investigation, visit the Rossen Reports Facebook page.

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