Shower blocks and exercise mats are the germiest areas of the gym, according to a new study carried out in Canada.
Investigative consumer programme Marketplace looked at various elements of the gym including the elliptical equipment, barbells, dumbbells, exercise mats and yoga balls. Researchers discovered that exercise mats harboured almost eight times the amount of bacteria as yoga balls and more than dumbells and barbells.
The mats tested were also found to have particularly high levels of staphylococcus. But the gym showers were of most concern since they harboured more than four times the amount of bacteria as the mat as well as elevated levels of yeast, mould and staph.
Speaking on behalf of Marketplace, microbiologist Jason Tetro said the warm environment and running water found in the showers helped to create the perfect environment for microbes to grow.
"That's where viruses can hide, that's where fungi can hide and then you take your bare foot, step on it and all of a sudden you have exposure," he said.
However, the germs uncovered in other areas of the gym were less concerning, he added. "There has to be some weakening of the immune system that can lead to an infection so if you're going to the gym and you happen to have a cut, then there's a likelihood it could get into your skin," he said. He recommended that all cuts and wounds should be covered up before working out.
Equipment from a total of nine gyms from three chains in the Greater Toronto Area was tested in the study.