We need to get our daily sweat on, and that comes with a lot of heavy breathing. Soon it will be cold enough outside to force us into the confines of the gym, which seems like the best option there is when the other options are sitting on the couch or putting on 30 layers of workout gear. And while you’ve probably noticed that the gym feels stuffy at times, have you ever really thought about the quality of the air you’re breathing in as you’re trying to maintain your fitness levels?
According to a new study in the journal Building and Environment, the air is far from clean. Researchers in Holland and Portugal assessed air pollutants at 11 different gyms throughout Lisbon during peak hours and found high levels of airborne dust, formaldehyde, and carbon dioxide, especially during confined classes, where the air is more concentrated.
Carla Ramos, a graduate student at the University of Lisbon who led the new study, told The New York Times that, in high concentrations, the chemicals that come from “carpeting, cleaning products, furniture or paint” can contribute to respiratory issues such as asthma. Also, carbon dioxide (which everyone creates every time they exhale), though not normally harmful, could also be cause for concern in a poorly ventilated space; at high levels, it can lead to brain fog and fatigue.
Does this mean you should just quit hitting the gym altogether? Ramos says no. More than the air pollutants, inactivity is more likely to threaten your health, especially since the results showed no substantial traces of carbon monoxide, the most dangerous air pollutant of them all.
It’s our hope that this study prompts people to be more conscious of the air quality at their gyms. If you’re ever concerned about the stale or chemical-filled smell of your gym, talk to the manager. It may just be a matter of increasing ventilation or switching cleaning products.
Or you could just brave the cold! Do you prefer working out indoors or outdoors in the winter?
This article was originally published in Mind Body Green.