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Prospective Study of Bacterial and Viral Contamination of Exercise Equipment

Goldhammer, Kirsten A MD*; Dooley, David P MD*; Ayala, Eleanor MA, MT (ASCP); Zera, Wendy MT (ASCP); Hill, Bonnie L MT (HEW)

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: January 2006 - Volume 16 - Issue 1 - p 34-38
doi: 10.1097/01.jsm.0000181436.41268.1f
Original Research

Objective: Transmission of bacterial and viral pathogens is known to occur by hand contact with fomites. Exercise equipment in public facilities may serve as such fomites. It is not known whether equipment disinfection might reduce microorganism colonization. We performed studies to address these issues.

Design: Observational study of bacterial and viral culture results from hand-contact surfaces of exercise equipment, pre-exercise and postexercise; prospective study of viral culture results before and after intervention with disinfection solution.

Setting: Two fitness centers in a military community.

Intervention: One week trial of twice-a-day equipment disinfection.

Main Outcome Measures: Type and number of bacteria and type of viruses present on equipment before and after exercise; prevalence of viral culture positivity on equipment before and after intervention.

Results: Bacterial cultures of body contact surfaces on equipment revealed benign bacterial species (coagulase-negative staphylococci, diphtheroids, and so forth) but no pathogenic bacteria whether obtained pre-exercise or postexercise, or whether from aerobic versus weight training equipment. Viral cultures revealed the presence of viruses (generally rhinoviruses) on 63 of 100 (63%) hand-contact surfaces of equipment. Weight equipment was significantly more often contaminated than aerobic equipment (73% vs. 51%; P = 0.026). Disinfection of equipment did not lower the prevalence of virus isolation (48% positive before cleaning; 86% positive after cleaning).

Conclusions: There is little risk of exposure to pathogenic bacteria on exercise equipment. Such equipment may commonly serve as fomites for the transmission of viruses. These data do not suggest that disinfection of exercise equipment will offer significant protective effects against virus exposure.

From the Departments of *Medicine, †Clinical Investigation, and ‡Pathology, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, TX.

Received for publication November 2004; accepted July 2005.

Supported by the Department of Clinical Investigation, Brooke Army Medical Center, protocol number C.2001.112.

The opinions or assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.

Reprints: Kirsten A. Goldhammer, MD, Department of Medicine, Tripler Army Medical Center, 1 Jarrett White Road, Honolulu, HI 96859 (e-mail:

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.