The Gross Gym Problem You Never Think About

Photographed by Jens Ingvarsson.
There are so many things that can deter us from heading to the gym, including how early it becomes dark, having to venture outside in the cold, forgetting to pack a sports bra — and those are just the legitimate issues. Looking for another excuse to skip that core class? New research is here go give you the gym heebie-jeebies.
Just because you're heading indoors to work out, it seems, doesn't mean the environment is exactly "controlled." A study set to appear in the December issue of Building and Environment has identified a point of concern for your gym time. The researchers looked at 11 fitness centers in Lisbon, Portugal and found that they all ranked poorly in terms of air quality. Monitors were placed throughout the gyms to record data during peak hours. What they found was an increased level of indoor pollutants, including dust, formaldehyde, and carbon dioxide, particularly in the packed aerobics studios.
These pollutants can irritate people with asthma or breathing issues, which makes them disconcerting to that group. But, to the rest of us, they are more gross than dangerous — more slightly annoying than a reason to not exercise. As the lead researcher tells The New York Times, the findings do not pose enough of an issue not to go to the gym. But, if you do suffer from respiratory troubles, try to take off-hour aerobic classes when the studio won’t be as packed, or see if a door can be propped open to help increase ventilation in the room.
Air quality and exercise is an important issue. As the Mayo Clinic points out, when you’re doing an aerobic workout, you typically breathe at an increased rate and take in more oxygen. And, previous studies have shown that breathing polluted air (from car exhaust and smog) is linked to increased risk of asthma and stroke — but that doesn’t necessarily outweigh the benefits of exercise. Of course, there's always the option to stream your workouts at home.

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