TIME Germs

Bumping Fists Spreads Fewer Germs Than a Handshake, Study Says

From right: U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama bump fists at an election night rally at the Xcel Energy Center on June 3, 2008 in St. Paul, Minn. during his first presidential campaign.
From right: U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama bump fists at an election night rally at the Xcel Energy Center on June 3, 2008 in St. Paul, Minn. during his first presidential campaign. Scott Olson--Getty Images

Plus, they're cooler

President Barack Obama’s famous fist bumps may have health benefits as well as a cool factor, because a new study shows that greeting someone with your knuckles is much more hygienic than shaking their hand.

Dr. Dave Whitworth, of Aberystwyth University in Wales, tested the germ-carrying potential of various greetings by high-fiving, fist-bumping, and shaking hands with with a PhD student. One wore a glove covered in bacteria, the other wore a clean glove.

They found that handshakes transferred the most germs, with high-fives transferring only half as many and fist-bumps transferring 90% less, which means that fist-bumping instead of shaking hands could help limit the spread of illness.

The study will be published in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

Dr. Whitworth hypothesized that fist-bumps are more hygienic mostly because they minimize the surface area of hand-to-hand contact, and they’re usually quicker than handshakes.

“People rarely think about the health implications of shaking hands,” he said in a statement. “If the general public could be encouraged to fist-bump, there is genuine potential to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.”

Plus, if we all fist-bump, then we’d never have to deal with that limp-fish thing again.

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