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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

A popular friendly greeting may not be as innocent as it seems.

Although handshakes might be the preferred method of greeting others, fist bumps might actually be better for your health, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

The study, an experimental model to compare the transfer of bacteria during greeting exchange, found that fist bumps transfer ten times fewer bacteria than handshakes.

"I would say microbiologically it only makes sense because bacteria, they like moisture, so you’re going to find them in high levels where there’s moisture," said Paul Gulig, a professor in the department of molecular genetics and microbiology.

The study found that nearly twice as many bacteria were transferred during a handshake compared with a high five, whereas the fist bump consistently gave the lowest transmission of bacteria.

Gulig said he believes the fist bump, despite being a viable alternative for the handshake, would not gain popularity as a greeting because of the historical roots attached to handshakes.

"It goes all the way back at least to the Middle Ages," Gulig said. "The bottom line was that if you went to shake somebody’s hand, you were basically saying ‘I don’t have a knife or a sword in my hand.’"

"It’s a symbol of kind of like ‘I’m not threatening you.’"

A frequent fist bumper, 20-year-old UF marketing junior David Nassau first became a fist-bump fan after seeing a Miami Heat game with a friend.

"Dwyane Wade and Lebron James would do this double-tap fist bump on the side. It was something small, but we thought it was the coolest thing," Nassau said. "It just became a thing and casually evolved."

However, Nassau agrees that the findings of the study will not be enough to change individual greeting habits.

"In business, there are certain ways to go about things and that is going to be very difficult to change," Nassau said.

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"However, in a casual setting, I think that studies like this will help people try to change their ways a little bit."

[A version of this story ran on page 3 on 8/5/2014 under the headline "Fist bumps reducing spread of germs"]

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