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.


Casey Oliver

Casey Oliver is a Water Treatment Consultant with Thornton, Musso, and Bellemin, and is based in Pensacola, Florida. Her experience in the water treatment industry ranges widely from drinking and waste water, cooling, and boiler water treatment. As a former math and science educator, she is well acquainted with the world of data analysis and problem solving - a skill that’s prepared her well when working closely with her customers. Casey’s B.A. is in Education from the University of West Florida and her Master of Science degree is in Aeronautical Science with a Space Studies Specialization from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Her graduate research project involved the water reclamation system on the International Space Station. When she isn’t solving problems, Casey is outdoors exploring what nature has to offer.

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