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Is Your Fitness Tracker Making You Sick?Edwin Tan – Getty Images

Having to peel your fitness tracker from your sticky wrist after an intense workout or run is never a nice feeling. But have you ever stopped to wonder what germs might be festering on your skin, trapped between the plastic? It’s enough to put you off your workout…

Here’s another thought to ponder, while we’re not saying you don’t shower after a workout, how many of you take your fitness wristband off to wash yourself, or wash your wristband? How many of you sleep with one on, then get up and go for a run? For some people, if it wasn’t for the poor battery life, they’d never come off.

But maybe that’s about to change.

According to researchers at Florida Atlantic University, fitness wristbands are teaming with E.coli and staphylococcus spp, bacteria that can lead to fever, diarrhoea and a weakened immune system.

And of all the people who wear fitness wristbands, it’s gym-goers who showed the highest counts for bacteria, and that trackers made from cloth, plastic and rubber were most contaminated.

‘The quantity and taxonomy of bacteria we found on the wristbands show that there is a need for a regular sanitation of these surfaces,’ said the study’s lead author and professor of biological sciences Nwadiuto Esiobu. ‘The ability of many of these bacteria to significantly affect the health of immunocompromised hosts indicates a special need for health care workers and others in hospital environments to regularly sanitise these surface.’

Public Health Concern?

While it’s hardly surprising that bacteria was found within sweat – certain bacteria feed on the odourless chemical – the researchers were concerned with the presence of ‘Pseudomonas spp’, which was found on 30% of the wristbands tested. Extreme diseases caused by Pseudomonas spp include meningitis, septicaemia and pneumonia, which is why the researchers believe this is could be a public health concern.

It’s always important to practice good hygiene, and just like you would with dirty gym clothing, you should wash and clean your fitness accessories often, which includes not just fitness trackers, but earbuds and heart rate monitors.

The researchers wrote than both Lysol Disinfectant Spray and 70% ethanol ‘were highly effective regardless of the wristband material with 99.99 percent kill rate within 30 seconds.’

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