*Opens Purell*

It's January, which means Americans are taking to the gym in droves. Unfortunately, it's also smack dab in the middle of cold and flu season.

In theory, every gym-goer wipes down their equipment after each use, but how many people actually do? And how germy is your favorite piece of machinery?

To find out, Today national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen recently visited a popular gym armed with a germ meter and swabs to test just how germy gyms are. What he found was shocking.

"The thing people don't realize is, if you're working out, if you think about it, you rub your eyes, you rub your nose, you scratch your mouth, that's how the bacteria germs get into your body," NBC medical correspondent, Dr. John Torres, told Today. "Once they get in to your body, you get the flu or whatever is there."

On his meter, any reading above 100 is considered beyond the acceptable level of bacteria. The free weights Rossen measured came back at 242; the mats were 248. A reading from the beloved elliptical came in at 268.

The biggest surprise came from one of the most popular machines in the gym: the treadmill. Rossen found a staggering bacteria level of 2,134 on its buttons.

"Not only is it gross, but if it's staph or MRSA [a strain of staphylococcus resistant to antibiotics], or even worse, it can get you sick," Torres said. "It can also be deadly."


To keep yourself safe, be sure to wipe down machines before and after you use them and always wash your hands.