Fist Bump vs. Hand Shake – Which is Most Hygienic?

The fist bump. Considered one of the only equal nonverbal gestures in the world, it went viral in 2008 when President Barack Obama casually fist-bumped his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, during his presidential campaign. But along with the gesture’s novelty, fist bumps are being hailed as the cleanest of nonverbal expressions. As the public becomes more conscious of preventing disease, some are turning to the fist bump as their greeting in public spheres.

Is the fist bump something you should adapt in your workplace? Here are some reasons why fist-bumping is superior to the traditional handshake.

The Research Shows

Last summer, two researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales claimed that the fist bump is more hygienic than the traditional handshake, especially in public settings. They conducted an experiment which tested the amount of bacteria transferred during handshakes, high fives and fist bumps. Results showed that fist bumps transferred about a tenth of the germs compared to ordinary handshakes. Researchers hypothesize that a fist bump may be more hygienic than a handshake because it is much faster and reduced surface area gives the germs a smaller opportunity to spread. The researchers suggested the fist bump as a simple alternative to handshaking to improve public health.

In Hospitals

The handshake is a traditional way health care professionals show warmth and empathy towards patients, family members and fellow healthcare workers. However, some suggest banning handshakes in all hospitals to prevent the spread of disease, and there could be some benefits to doing so. On average, hospital workers only get hand cleansing right 40 percent of the time – which could spread harmful germs to their patients. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in 25 people who are hospitalized develop healthcare associated infections. These infections kill 75,000 people each year. Switching from handshakes to fist bumps in healthcare settings could potentially reduce the transfer of germs and result in fewer cases.

In the Boardroom

Fist bumps may be more hygienic than handshakes, but are they appropriate in business environments? More and more Fortune 500 boardrooms say yes. Chris Padgett, an executive coach from Ohio, has noticed that handshakes are being used less in corporate offices as businesses work to promote casual camaraderie as well as combat germs in the workplace. The research team from Aberystwyth University was actually inspired to conduct their study by the increased popularity of measures to promote cleanliness in the workplace, such as hand sanitizers and keyboard disinfectants. They even found that the stronger the handshake, the higher the amount of bacteria transferred. It turns out the strong handshake you were always told to use in the workplace also spreads 10 times more bacteria than a fist bump.

Fist-bumping is a hygienic alternative to say hello, while saying no to germs. However, we’re guessing that this greeting won’t become the norm anytime soon.