Yes, You Do Need To Wipe Down That Workout Machine After You Use It, And Here's Why

I hate to admit it, but there have been a few times at the gym -- when faced with the choice between leaving my sweat and germs on a treadmill or having to walk all the way over to the cleansing wipes and back -- I've chosen to leave my sweat and germs on the treadmill.

I know. It's gross.

While usually I clean down pretty thoroughly, I have often wondered as I do it just how necessary it really is to wipe down a machine at the gym after you use it.

I mean, there are germs and bacteria covering the entirety of more or less every public surface, and I'm certainly not going around cleaning soda machines and subway poles.

Could the gym really be any more germ-laden than those other surfaces?

Well, actually, yeah -- it can.

Just one study revealed there are 362 times more bacteria on free weights in a gym than on a public toilet seat.

Are you gagging yet?

Free weights were the most germ-laden, presumably because they get wiped down the least between uses.

In fact, more bacteria was found on the exercise equipment than all of the other surfaces they were compared to in the study, which was commissioned by FitRated from EmLab P&K, an indoor air quality lab.

The researchers performed tests in three different gyms and 27 pieces of workout equipment, including treadmills, weights, and everything in between.

While it wasn't a particularly extensive study, it certainly raised a few eyebrows and called some necessary attention to how gross many of us are when we're at the gym.

Now, it's important to note there are good and bad types of bacteria, and we can't possibly live in a germ-free world.

In fact, we actually need certain types of bacteria to break down our food and teach our bodies how to resist disease.

In the FitRated study, while some of the bacteria found on the gym equipment was harmless, about 70 percent of it was potentially dangerous to humans.

The study tested four types of bacteria, two of which -- called gram-positive cocci and gram negative rods -- are the kinds of bacteria you should watch out for.

Gram-positive cocci are bacteria that can cause skin infections and pneumonia.

Gram-negative rods, on the other hand, which were present on about one-third of the bacteria on the gym equipment in the study, are about 90 to 95 percent harmful to humans.

Increasingly resistant to antibiotics, gram-negative rods are responsible for more dangerous infections, such as meningitis.

And, just so you know, this is definitely not the first time people have come across harmful germs at the gym.

Other studies have reported discoveries of little gems like HPV and E.coli living on workout machines and free weights.

But before you cancel your gym membership in a panic, remember there are habits you can practice that wll reduce the spread of bacteria (because it is sort of your fault, and my fault, and all of our faults).

For one thing, make sure you thoroughly wash your hands with hot water before and after a workout. Hand-washing continues to be the number one way to prevent the spread of infection.

Even if you don't get sick from what's on your nasty little mitts, someone else might.

Also be sure to use a clean towel as you exercise to keep your sweat to yourself.

And when you're done with whatever you're doing -- be it a stationary bike, free weights, or stretching on the mats -- wipe down both what you have touched, and what you are about to touch next.

And please, do it thoroughly, for the sake of just not being a gross human being.