Gyms: How long can COVID-19 live on weights and gym machines?

As some gyms prepare to open again, science shows COVID-19 could live on surfaces for nine days

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Are you itching to go back to the gyms once they reopen? There's a lot of people out there ready to get back to their regular fitness routine, which means treadmills, elliptical machines, heavy weights and pulleys. 

However, gym life isn't going to be quite the way it was before: with more space (and possibly screens) between the machines and weight benches, most gyms will be operating at a reduced capacity. 

Those heading to gyms will also need to take personal responsibility in wiping down the equipment they use, before and after. Why? Simple: the virus can exist on surfaces for nine days.

According to a study from the Journal of Hospital Infection, a scientific research journal, coronavirus "can persist on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to nine days." 

Handles for machines and freeweights fall under the same category as doorknobs or Amazon parcels: lots of (very sweaty) people are touching communal equipment, and gyms must consider this when they open. 


(Image credit: Bowflex)

However, there's hope. The research paper goes on to say the virus "can be efficiently inactivated by surface disinfection procedures with 62–71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite within one minute".

Essentially, if you have cleaning products like wipes or hand sanitisers available, you'll be able to eliminate the virus within one minute of application. If each person who uses the gym equipment wiped it down before and after use, the chances of the pathogen spreading would be greatly reduced, 

where to buy hand sanitizer

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This is because you're cleaning the equipment before your own use, preventing you catching the disease. Wiping the equipment down afterwards prevents you from spreading it, on the offchance you're already a carrier.  

The study recommends using a product with around 70% ethanol to effectively catch and kill the virus. Clorox or Lysol wipes have proven very effective, but any wipe or spray with over 70% alcohol content should prove just as potent. 

It's worth also keeping a bottle of hand sanitiser on you should you decide to venture back into the gyms once they open. With a similar alcohol content, most hand sanitiser products will allow you to change equipment quickly and safely without rushing back and forth to the sink to wash your hands between sets. 


(Image credit: Getty Images)

With gyms set to reopen within weeks in the UK, now is the time to start taking these tips into consideration if you're planning to get back on track with your fitness goals as soon as possible. 

However, for those waiting until things calm down a little, there's lots of alternative ways to get your workouts in: start creating your own home gym setups with our best weights and best weights benches, try bodyweight workouts with our best pull-up bars or take to the streets with our best running shoes

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans now works for sister brand TechRadar, covering all things relating to fitness and wellness. He came to as staff writer before moving on, and was previously on Men's Health, and slightly counterintuitively, a website devoted to the consumption of Scotch whiskey. In his free time, he could often be found with his nose in a book until he discovered the Kindle.