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The Microbes Lurking at The Fitness Center


From editor:

Casey Oliver, guest blogger and one of our valued customers, proves that microbes can lurk anywhere – including the gym.

Casey ran DSA tests (LuminUltra’s Deposit & Surface Analysis) on the equipment at her local gym and the results are interesting. Turns out that sweaty people handling equipment is an ideal breeding ground for microorganisms.

Read on to see the test results and suggestions on how to reduce the number of lurking microbes.

I thought LuminUltra’s readers might be interested in seeing my results from DSA tests that I ran at my local gym. I was curious to do a preliminary survey of the gym since gym equipment could certainly be a breeding ground for microorganisms considering all the sweaty people handling them. Before running the tests, I observed how the equipment was being handled and it looked like the women were doing a better job cleaning the equipment after use.

The results were as follows, and very interesting indeed:

Surface TestedATP (pg/in2)
15kg Bar Bell (Dirty)134
15kg Bar Bell (Cleaned)71.3
20kg Bar Bell (Dirty)530
20kg Bar Bell (Cleaned)245
Rig Bar546000
Ab Mat (Probably cleaned)22.3
53 lb Kettle Bell (chalked)459
14 lb Wall Ball (cleaned)152

After these tests, I watched everyone even closer and noticed that most of the men didn’t wipe down their bars (typically the 20kg ones) afterwards. My other thought is that hardly anyone is using the wire brush to clean off skin cells out of the grooves. The rig bar, which hangs overhead, is hardly ever cleaned.

Another interesting observation was that everyone one uses chalk to help with their grip and the bars end up coated in what looks like layers of it. One of the coaches said that they used antimicrobial chalk, but by the looks of the results, I’m left questioning its effectiveness.

One thing to keep in mind is that while ATP has certainly proven itself as a very valuable tool for my company to quantify microbiological content in water and wastewater, measurements obtained when applying it in this situation will also likely include ATP from skin cells.  Essentially, it’s not all bugs but the presence of a significant amount of ATP in any form means that cleanliness isn’t exactly being maintained as well as it should be.  In this case, it was quickly made clear to us where we need to pay a little extra attention to keeping things clean.  These results helped to implement stricter guidelines for all athletes at the gym.


LuminUltra Team

Founded in 1995, LuminUltra is a global leader in applied molecular biology diagnostics, with solutions and services that deliver accurate and actionable feedback in bioprocessing, biofouling, and biosecurity applications. With operations in six countries, LuminUltra serves dozens of Fortune 500 customers across more than 100 countries. At the same time, LuminUltra fosters a culture of innovation and agility, working tirelessly to deliver more value to customers. In recent years it has been on an accelerated growth path, acquiring multiple companies after forming a partnership with XPV Water Partners.  

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