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UK gym-goers are not so 'clean living'

Published 15th September, 2015 by Neil Nixon

UK gym-goers are not so 'clean living'

Initial Washroom Hygiene has revealed the results of its recent gym bag study, which showed that 60% of gym bags carry high levels* of bacterial contamination.

Swab tests carried out found that more than one in three (35%) bags harboured coliform bacteria on the handle. These bacteria are typical indicators of poor hygiene and, outside the body are predominantly found in faecal matter. Any presence of coliform bacteria carries a significant threat of illness and cross contamination, yet the dirtiest bag within the test contained seven times the acceptable level of coliform counts.

Bags made of leather were found to hold more bacteria than those made of canvas or nylon - the spongy surface texture of leather providing the perfect conditions for bacteria to live and grow. With bags designed to be carried and handled by their owners, and research estimating that 80% of all infections are transmitted by hands, thorough washing and hygiene practices are crucial in combatting the spread of bacteria. This is especially true in busy gym environments, which typically have high footfall, multiple touch-points and warm conditions.

Interestingly, tests also revealed that bags belonging to females were just as likely to have high levels of bacteria as those belonging to males (64% vs. 61% respectively).

Dr Peter Barratt, technical manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene, said: “Gym bags are portable - we take them with us into our homes, places of work, in our cars, and on public transport. If they become contaminated, their potential for accumulating and transferring bacteria and virus particles is significant. Our study demonstrates how relevant the provision of easily accessible hand washing facilities and hand sanitisers is in gyms, to help prevent cross contamination between members. It's also down to individuals to take responsibility for their own hand hygiene by following correct handwashing guidelines: between 20 and 30 seconds is the recommended time for thorough hand washing. This is one of the tips we give school children because if we can make hand washing and sanitising a habit at an early age, we'll all be a little better off. As well as keeping yourself fit in the gym, it's important to remember to stay healthy at the same time.”

*'High levels' are defined as any sample containing an ATP (adenosine triphosphate) reading of 500 Relative Light Units or above using the Hygiena SystemSure process on either the handle or inside of the bag.

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