Air Quality in Gyms: Poor Indoor Air May Be Rampant in Fitness Centers
Most people patronize gyms and fitness centers to improve their health and wellness, or so they think. But not all these facilities are as “healthy” as they could be. In fact, some actually have poor indoor air quality (IAQ) – a concern, especially since gyms and fitness centers are now reopening as the pandemic wanes.
First, all that huffing and puffing actually impacts IAQ. According to a study released in 2021 by the University of Colorado Boulder , one sweaty, huffing, exercising person emits as many chemicals from their body as up to five sedentary people. Those human emissions, including acetone from breath and amino acids from sweat, chemically combine with disinfectants and bleach cleaners to form new airborne chemicals that negatively impact indoor air quality. You’re more likely to inhale the toxins while exercising because you are breathing more heavily and at a faster pace.
Then, there’s the building itself. At a recently constructed or renovated facility, testing often finds much higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) due to the off-gassing from new building materials and gym equipment. Included in that list would be new furniture, carpeting, adhesives, composite wood products like cabinets and lockers, work-out machines, and vinyl, such as mats, shower curtains or tile. The quality of ventilation also comes into play. Often, high levels of VOCs, formaldehyde, CO2, and particulate matter accumulate because of inadequate ventilation.
Where you live also impacts IAQ. The CDC, EPA, and several medical journals point out that exposure to air pollutants in urban areas is linked to higher rates of asthma and abnormal heart rhythms, and increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, and all other natural causes. [,,] That said, poor indoor air quality can be present in any indoor environment, with VOCs and mold being the primary causes.
Exposure to VOCs in high levels can cause skin irritation, neurotoxic, and hepatotoxic (toxicity of the liver) effects, and certain of them are carcinogenic. They also make you tired, cranky, and unfocused. The studies found that the concentrations of these substances generally exceeded most accepted standards for indoor air quality. However, no government agency in the United States formally monitors air quality in gyms.
Mold in Gyms
You probably know that feeling when you walk into a gym – it’s humid, damp, and smells sweaty. It’s no surprise, then, that many gyms contain elevated levels of mold, with the steamy sauna, swimming pool area, and shower areas that are in use all day long.
Mold is a health hazard. Breathing in mold is far worse than ingesting it. Mold can cause respiratory issues, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes, nose and throat, cough and postnasal drip, wheezing, rashes, and more.
What Can You Do?
It never hurts to ask a question. Talk to your gym or fitness center management and find out if they’ve had an indoor air quality test. If they haven’t, request one. If you’re deciding which facility to patronize, choose one that has large open areas and windows that open. Oh, and while you’re at it, be sure your indoor air quality at home is acceptable as well, since you spend a majority of your time there.
RTK provides fast and unbiased mold and indoor air quality testing. To schedule a test or learn more, call 800.392.6468 or click here.