High fives may spread 50% less germs than shaking hands, but knuckle-knocking fist bumps are even better, transferring only about 1/20th the amount of germs according to a novel new study by David Whitworth of Aberystewyth University in Wales.
Although there have been plenty of studies regarding the spread of germs on various surfaces touched by our hands, from door knobs to computer keyboards, kitchen counters to shopping carts at supermarkets, etc., Whitworth felt it was time to take a closer look at how germs are transmitted from direct hand-to-hand contact, regardless of how much handwashing is done. To do this, he and Sara Mela (a student at the University) “shook hands, high-fived, and fist bumped dozens of times,” with one wearing a glove saturated with bacteria, while the other wore a sterilized glove. After each method of contact, they measured the amount of bacteria that was transferred from one to the other. They also said that they practiced using paint to test how much area space each greeting involved before actually trying their experiments with germs. The reason why fist bumps were more sanitary was simple they found because they involved smaller areas of contact.
Although fist bumping has been made popular by President Obama, who generally prefers it to shaking hands, particularly when in public forums, the method of greeting is said to have first become popular with biker gangs (particularly in the American southwest) during the 1940 as a method of greeting “while sitting next to each other at stop signals, where it was harder to shake hands while seated on their motorcycles.”
The gesture was also made popular by several sports figures including Stan Musial as well as Baltimore Bullets guard Fred Carter back in the 1970’s, and was regularly used by the “Wonder Twins” cartoon characters.