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Clean Air Can Help Gyms Stay Healthy

You drive to the gym. You skip the dumbbells and head straight for the treadmill. You slowly increase the speed from a walk to a jog. To really increase the workout, you raise the slope, going from a leisurely, even jog to an intense uphill climb.

Then you slowly back it down, let your heart settle, and breathe deeply. As you slow the pace to a walk, you think about the next routine.

That’s a fairly common routine for anyone who uses a gym. Even if cardio isn’t your main focus, you likely do some sort of heart-enhancing warmup.

But did your time on the treadmill help your overall health?

According to some research, it may not have been as good for you as you might have thought. Why? Because there are reasons to believe that gym air loaded with indoor pollutants.

An Important Message: Go to the Gym!

Going to the gym is a great way to stay healthy, right?

While cardio and weight training are good for your heart health and muscles, there are potential issues lingering in your gym. We are referring, of course, to the indoor air quality.

But first, we need to be clear on one important point: going to the gym is better for you than not going to the gym. More specifically, physical activity, in almost any form, is far better than not working out, even if the air is polluted.

The bottom line is that when your body is moving, it’s good for you. (Of course, posture, safety, and stance are important, but the point remains.)

We are not suggesting you don’t workout, we’re just informing you that air can be poor in gyms. Even the creators of studies that found harmful levels of airborne pollutants in gyms emphasized the importance of exercise. So, you still need to exercise, but that doesn’t mean we should overlook indoor air pollution.

Like any location, we can look at improving the quality of air inside workout facilities. Why is clean air in the gym so important? Okay, we’ve established that exercise is important. But why is air quality in gyms such a concern? It all relates to increased air consumption.

When we workout, we start to breathe heavily, pulling in more oxygen to feed to our blood stream, which then takes oxygen through the body. We all know that when we start to workout, we breathe more heavily. To state the obvious, the harder, longer, and more intense we workout, the more oxygen we need.

But how much more?

The information is a little sparse, but there are a few interesting sources of data that put numbers to air intake.

The California Environmental Protection Agency conducted a study on breathing averages during various activities for children, adult men, and adult women. Their findings shed some interesting light on just how much more we breathe when exercising.

According to their data, both men and women take in less than 10 liters of air when sitting, but pull in over 50 liters of air when running at a pace of 5 miles per hour. (For men, it’s almost 60 liters.)

Roughly speaking, you’re taking in over five times more air when doing an intense exercise. And it should be noted that five miles an hour is not considered a particularly fast time among elite runners; it’s reasonable to assume you may be pulling in more.

Even walking, an activity that is not generally considered exhausting, requires more air. Women require roughly 20 liters of air while men require about 25.

Review of comparable numbers from the study:

(Numbers are rough measurements of liters per minute)

  • Men: 9
  • Women 7

  • Men: 11
  • Women: 8

Walking (2.5 mph)
  • Men: 24
  • Women: 20

Running (5 mph)
  • Men: 57
  • Women: 51

As you can see from these numbers, there is a quantifiable increase in the amount of air we breathe. It’s not just a feeling, you are pulling in more air.

Let’s give it a little more perspective.

Using these numbers, let’s say that a man does an exercise routine perfectly equal to a 5 mpg jog in the gym for 30 minutes. At 57 liters per minute, that’s a total of 1,710 liters of air. 

That half hour of running is equal to three hours and ten minutes (190 minutes) worth of air intake if he were sitting. What if he worked out at the same intensity for an hour? Two hours? What if the intensity of the workout increased? You can imagine how the numbers can really add up.

You may only spend a short percentage of your time in the gym, but it’s clear that healthy air is important, even for the small time frame.

Air in the Gym: What do We Know?

Now that we have a rough idea for how much more air we use during exercise, we can look at the state of air in gyms, fitness centers, and exercise areas to see if there is a problem.

For the most part, you’ll find that the air quality in gyms, while certainly not hazardous, could use improvement.

One of the most important studies took air samples from 11 different gyms. While this study as reported by ScienceDirect, which was done by researchers at the University of Lisbon in Portugal, it was done with facilities that, according to the researchers, were similar to American gyms.

For each gym, the study looked at temperature, humidity, and indoor air pollutants, including particulate matter, VOCs, and CO2. Three gyms were also selected for deeper analysis, which consisted of longer measurement times and testing for further chemicals.

It’s important to note that measurements were taken when the gym was occupied to identify daily patterns and to possibly help identify air pollution sources. This study found that fitness centers can be filled with excess levels of pollutants and airborne chemicals.

The most common pollutants found were carbon dioxide, particulate matter (such as dust and other tiny particles) and gases like formaldehyde. However, ozone and carbon monoxide concentrations were not found at excessive levels.

Researchers noticed that air pollution levels increased when the spaces were occupied, especially during classes. One cause of the pollution stems from inadequate ventilation and air filtration given the number of people working out. Other issues are related to gases like formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

Formaldehyde gases from a variety of building materials like carpeting, cleaning products, wood products and furniture. If not properly ventilated or removed, formaldehyde can reach unhealthy levels.

Using information from this study, as well as other facts about air quality, we can make informed decisions to improve the air in healthcare facilities and make sure we are breathing clean, pollution-free air.

How to Exercise in Cleaner Air

Avoid Crowded Gyms

We suggest you pay attention to whether the gym is crowded.

As the Lisbon study discovered, air can hold more pollutants when there are more people using the facility. Obviously, we all have busy schedules, but try to spend time at the gym when the crowd is not around.

Maybe you could get up an hour early to beat the rush, or maybe you could fit your workout in after dinner, when most people are at home for the night. Besides better air, when you go at non-peak hours, you’ll have room in the facility.

We also suggest easing up if the air is stuffy. If you notice the air is stuffy, the quality is likely poor. While higher levels of carbon dioxide may not be unhealthy they can result in you becoming fatigued more easily. Fatigue can also set in more easily if the temperature and humidity are high.

In these situations, it would be smart to not push as hard you normally would. With stuffy air, there is most likely elevated particulate matter in the air.

If you have asthma or other respiratory issues you should take it easy. An increase in fine particles like dust can trigger an asthma attack as well as create heart health issues. Perhaps there is a nice outdoor trail that would be better than the stuffy gym.

Safe Surroundings

If your gym has recently installed new carpeting, wood flooring or new furniture there may be elevated formaldehyde levels. This situation can also exist if you are in a smaller sized room with cleaning supplies or if the facility was recently painted.

If any of these situations occur, it might be best to take a week off from the gym. Give the facility time to ventilate and you’ll likely be left with a better quality to your air.

With these important tips, you can still enjoy the benefits of exercise while breathing clean, healthy air. Exercise and clean air are never mutually exclusive, and both are important to your overall wellbeing!

How to Get Clean Gym Air

If you own or run a gym, one of the best things you can do for the health of your members is to provide pure, fresh air by improving the air quality. There are two aspects to this:

Proper Ventilation

The first is proper ventilation with outside air. As the Lisbon study showed, the majority of fitness centers do not have proper ventilation, which increases problems with indoor air quality.

For proper ventilation, you will need to have an HVAC system that is sized properly, not only for the space but also the number of members exercising at peak times.

If possible, consider opening windows and allowing fresh outdoor air to flow inside. Indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air, so opening windows can be a simple and effective solution for enhancing air quality.

However, if you live in a metro area with poor air quality, or if your facility is near a major roadway or high pollution city, opening the windows could actually decrease air quality. It’s important to consider the specifics of your situation.

Air Cleaners

The second aspect is proper air filtration that provides supplemental indoor air cleaning to your HVAC system. For a gym, commercial air purifiers will help to remove the fine particulates like dust. This system can also remove dangerous gases provided it has sufficient media to adsorb these chemicals.

For VOCs (volatile organic compounds) activated carbon is effective and for formaldehyde you will want a media like potassium permanganate.

Let’s explore a few of the best air purifiers for enhancing the air in your facility:

mod+ Air Purifier

This is one of the most effective purifiers for removing particulate matter like dust, which was identified as a common problem in the Lisbon study. The mod+ air purifier removes 99.4% of all airborne allergens and particles, creating cleaner air for your customers. It also uses 90% less energy than comparable models, meaning it can pay for itself in as little as five years. It can effectively clean a room over 1,361 square feet with two changes per hour, so it can easily handle most gyms.

mod jr. Air Purifier

If you want a smaller air purifier for individual rooms in your facility, the smaller version of the mod, mod jr., is a great choice. It also removes a high amount of particles, keeping excessive dust and matter from harming the air quality. It can handle a room up to 878 square feet, so it’s ideal for small gym rooms that host classes or group routines.

Find Air Purifiers for Any Location

You can enhance your gym or your home with high-quality air purifiers from Oransi. We have a huge selection of products for both residential and commercial use, so whether you live in a small apartment or want to improve the air quality in a major commercial facility, you’ll find everything you need.

Contact us today to learn more about world-class Oransi air purifiers.