How to avoid germs at the gym

- While the gym is a great place to stay active and get fit in the new year, it can also be a breeding ground for germs.

Dr. Shilpi Agarwal has tips on how to handle the equipment at the gym and may be lurking on those free weights and treadmills.

Dr. Agarwal has the spots to be most aware of when you're working out.

Swapped the different areas in the gym. "We went with the treadmill, elliptical, the free weights," she says, revealing petri dishes from swabbed gym equipment.

FOX 5's Allison Seymore says she thought the water fountain would be the top contender -- but Dr. Agarwal says the free weights are actually the dirtiest.

But those were not too far ahead of the handle of the treadmill and the elliptical. While many gyms do encourage members to wipe down the equipment, lots of people are not doing a thorough job.

"People are not necessarily wiping down as thoroughly as we should be. But also sometimes people don't wipe down, and then there are areas where the cleaning doesn't actually happen. So even the professional cleaning that happens in the entire gym, it doesn't always get as well done in the actual free weight section as the ellipticals and other machines because those are larger with bigger surface areas."

Exercise bikes can have 39 times more bacteria than a plastic reusable cafeteria tray. Free weights can have 362 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Treadmills have been found to have 74 times more bacteria than a water faucet.

"One of the tips I recommend for you guys is to bring your own mat if you can because that's going to alleviate sitting on other people's sweat, you sweating and leaving stuff for other people. So bring your own mat if you can, if not wipe down the mat front and back before you use it."

A disinfectant wipe will be good for this.

When you get to the gym Dr. Agarwal recommends washing your hands first but then also grabs some wipes that should be provided at your gym, either along a wall, near the bathrooms, or near equipment.

Dr. Agarwal says its important to not assume that the person before you has wiped down a machine, so wipe the machine down before or after using.

"Especially now we're in cold and flu season and these viruses can live on these surfaces for several hours. That's how you'll get sick. So wipe down the machines. Bring your own mat."

She also recommends wearing workout gloves at the gym because you're covering so much surface area and you're to the going to be touching the equipment. It is highly recommended to wash gloves if you use them, but also wash your hands before and after your workout.

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