Is exercising to lose weight or get into shape among one of your New Year’s resolutions? If so, you’re not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, more than 90 percent of Americans make a resolution to change some aspects of their behavior, such as to lose weight, exercise, save more money or make other lifestyle changes.
The International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) reports that more than 12 percent of gym memberships are activated in January, compared to an average of 8.3 percent per month during the rest of the year.
Wise shoppers look for specials such as no initiation fee or termination fee, low monthly payments, or some free personal training. Experts suggest you take a walk around the gym to check out the equipment to make sure it is in good working order and kept clean and also look at the overall cleanliness of the facility and locker rooms before making a decision.
These points are well-grounded, but there’s a glaring omission. What about indoor air quality?
Before You Take a Deep Breath
Many gyms have a policy that members should wipe down the equipment after using it to clean it for the next person. It’s natural to first think about the sweaty surfaces potentially spreading germs, but airborne bacteria are more pervasive.
In several of the Simply Better Living blog posts surrounding the topic of indoor air quality (IAQ), we have emphasized the fact that according to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the indoor air quality of homes and other buildings can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air. “For many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors rather than outdoors,” the report warns.
Add large groups of people in a room with equipment designed to induce vigorous inhaling and exhaling, and you’ve got a more significant air quality problem than similar-sized rooms not used for fitness.
A report from the Mayo Clinic points out that when you exercise, and your muscles work harder, your body uses more oxygen and produces more carbon dioxide. To cope with this extra demand, your breathing has to increase from about 15 times a minute (12 liters of air) when you are resting, up to about 40–60 times a minute (100 liters of air) during exercise. Mayo Clinic’s Edward R. Laskowski, M.D. says, “because you’re more likely to breathe deeply through your mouth during exercise, the air you breathe in generally bypasses your nasal passages, which normally filter airborne pollution particles.”
A 2014 study of fitness centers in Lisbon, Portugal, reports that gyms experience heightened carbon dioxide concentration, and higher occupancy correlates with the concentration of particulate matter in the air.
All that heavy breathing helps move around airborne viruses and bacteria, pollen, mold, dust, and particulates from carpeting and building materials.
While there still is not a standard for indoor air quality in fitness facilities, there is a growing awareness of the importance of filtrated air by gym-goers. Ask the facility director what is done to help ensure a healthier indoor air quality of the gym you are looking to become a member.
And in your own home, an air purifier with True HEPA filtration — like the Sharp FPF50UW air purifier — can help reduce pollen, dust, pet dander, smoke, germs, bacteria, viruses, odors, mold, and fungus in your living space. This can help limit your exposure to air pollution indoors.