Gym equipment is covered in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, study warns

Public gyms, whether they're ones available to an entire community or more limited like the ones in apartment complexes and on university campuses, are full of bacteria. This is expected given the large number of people who visit public gyms daily, as well as the generally warm and humid environment in these buildings. A new study warns that some of the bacteria present in these gyms aren't harmless and that exercise equipment often includes antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is, as its name suggests, different strains of bacteria that aren't easily eliminated using antibiotics. Infections from these bacteria often require the use of multiple antibiotics, as well as 'last resort' antibiotics, but even those may not be enough. Thousands of people die annually from infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The ongoing pandemic has drawn public attention back toward the topic of public gathering areas and the germs that may lurk there, putting everyone — but particularly those with pre-existing health issues — at risk of infection. A new study published in the American Society for Microbiology reports that 43-percent of the gym equipment tested in university gyms contained Staphylococcus bacteria resistant to an antibiotic called ampicillin.

That wasn't the full scope of it, however, as the study also found 73-percent isolated bacteria from the resistant 43-percent batch were resistant to more than one drug, making them much harder to treat. The bacteria were gathered from a variety of equipment, including kettlebells, barbell handles, treadmill handles, pull grips, elliptical handles, and more.

The study highlights the importance of properly wiping down gym equipment before and after using it. According to the CDC, using proper disinfectants on these surfaces can kill the S. aureus bacteria behind infections like MRSA, including ordinary diluted bleach, but cleaning must be done regularly and thoroughly, otherwise, it won't do much good.