The Most Germ-Ridden Place In The Gym Will Probably Surprise You

Whenever I go for a workout at my gym, I always make a habit of using the hand sanitizer dispensers after each of my exercises.

And after I wrap up a good sweat sesh on the elliptical, I make sure to wipe that sucker down before I go get a drink from the water fountain.

Little did I know, in my attempt to stay clean at the gym, the machines and the mats should actually be the least of my worries.

Instead, I probably should have been more concerned about the toxic waste dump that is meant to serve as the source of my hydration.

It turns out the most germ-ridden place in most gyms is not, in fact, the men's locker room, or even the free weights (though the weights are pretty nasty — more on that later).

Nope, the germiest place in the gym is literally right under your nose: It's the water fountains.

Yep, I'm as disgusted as you are.

According to the National Sanitation Foundation, there's way more bacteria found in water fountains than nearly anywhere else, including bathrooms.

In their research, 2.7 million bacterial cells per square inch were found in a classroom water fountain spigot.

And here I was thinking that I'm going to the gym to improve my health.

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, there are tons of dangerous pathogens in water fountains, such as E. coli, Legionella, and coliform bacteria. All of these can potentially cause stomach problems and symptoms of pneumonia, which include headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea.

So much for a healthy post-workout glow.

But how does bacteria manage to spread so quickly at the gym in the first place?

Free weights can have over 300 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, according to The hard surface is very inviting for bacteria, and they're almost never cleaned as much as they should be.

So, combine the filthy free weights with every person who's hitting the water fountain and inadvertently spreading the love, and we've got a germ-filled disaster.

If your mind hasn't been blown enough yet, get this: A dog's bowl is actually safer to drink out of than a water fountain, according to The Toronto Star.

Their investigation showed that a water fountain had 4,529 bacteria, while a dog bowl had just 172 bacteria.

Don't fret, though. This doesn't have to be the end of your fitness lifestyle (although, I'm not going to lie, I definitely considered it).

Of course, you still need to stay hydrated during your workout, so instead of gulping from the germ-infested community water fountain, it might be time to make the transition to a nice, clean, personal water bottle.

But, just remember, if you must drink from the forbidden fountain, let the water run for a few seconds before taking a drink. This reduces the potential risk of consuming toxic levels of metals or elevated bacterial levels.

And maybe give a little heads up to the person behind you in line.