Sunday, November 16, 2014

Air Quality In Your Gym

Last week I wrote about the potential pitfalls of exercising in the haze, but we didn't get any haze thankfully due to all the rain from the northeast monsoon. Guess it worked out pretty well then.

With all that rain, some of you may be tempted to give up your exercise plans or shift your workouts indoors into gyms. All good so far right as you expect there won't be any pollution indoors.  I've written that exercising in polluted air is undesirable and can damage your brain and lungs. But guess what, the air in your gym may not be that clean either.

In the article referenced below, researchers monitored 11 gyms (in Lisbon, Portugal) to measure pollutants during the evening/ late afternoon hours since the gyms will be packed at that time.

Subsequently, additional monitors were placed in three gyms to get more detailed readings. These monitors measured air quality throughout the building and throughout the day.

What the researchers found were alarming.  Levels of carbon dioxide, airborne dust and formaldehyde exceeded national levels.

High concentrations of dust and chemicals like formaldehyde can contribute to asthma and other respiratory problems. Almost all the gyms in the study had levels of these substances that significantly exceeded European standards for healthy indoor air.

The levels of carbon dioxide were especially high during evening aerobics classes. Many people were packed into smaller studios/ rooms stirring up dust, fumes and were panting heavily, producing carbon dioxide with every breath. High concentrations of carbon dioxide can contribute to fatigue and cognitive fogginess, not desirable at all in a high intensity aerobics class.

Elevated levels of carbon dioxide may also indicate a building that is poorly ventilated especially if levels remain elevated (they did in this study). The researchers suggest gym goers sniff the air for chemical smells and stale air (as it differs from unwashed gym clothes odour) and consider talking to the gym manager whether the building has undergone a indoor air quality assessment.

As far as I know, no one formally monitors air quality in our gyms here in Singapore, so gym goers be warned.


Ramos CA et al (2014). Exposure To Indoor Air Pollutants During Physical Activity In Fitness Centers. Building and Environment. 82: 349-360.

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