Health Advantages of Exercising at Home

Why Home Workouts Are Better for Your Health

The best place to work out is at home. Why? When your gym is at home, you have control over when you work out, and you don’t have to worry about what you wear or how you look. Convenience is a beautiful thing but working out at home has other perks as well. You control the environment. As it turns out, the “health” club can be a surprisingly unhealthy place to be.

Health Clubs, Air Pollution, and Health

Air pollution is bad for your health; no argument about that. You’re exposed to it when you’re outdoors breathing in exhaust fumes and the chemicals produced by factories and businesses in your area. Some of the pollutants that most of us breathe in daily include ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter. Many of these molecules are small enough to enter your lungs and be absorbed into your bloodstream.

Why is this a problem? Air pollution has been linked with a higher risk for a variety of health problems, including asthma, lung cancer, irregular heart rhythms, emphysema, and heart disease. In fact, the World Health Organization states that 7 million deaths each year are linked with exposure to pollutants in the air. However, it’s not just outdoor pollution that’s a problem; indoor areas can be a hotbed for compounds you don’t want to breathe. Believe it or not, health clubs and gyms, so-called healthy places to hang out, fall into this category.

Is exercising at a health club risky? A study published in the journal Building and Environment monitored the air quality in 11 indoor fitness centers to see how clean the air in gyms and health clubs where people work out is. Gym goers beware. In this study, the concentration of volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, and particulate matter in the air was unacceptably high at the workout centers they tested.

Should people who belong to health clubs be concerned about what they’re breathing? A high level of carbon dioxide probably doesn’t pose long-term risks to health, but when carbon dioxide builds up in a closed space, it can make you feel tired or lightheaded. However, some types of volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde are more troubling since exposure is linked with cancer in animals. Where do these compounds come from? Yoga mats, carpeting, flame retardants, and chemicals used to clean the equipment.

Your Breathing Rate Increases When You Exercise

The way you breathe at a health club makes the problem worse. When you exercise, especially at a high intensity, you breathe rapidly. With each deep breath, you suck these compounds into your lungs. Think about how hard you breathe when you do a high-intensity workout. Then consider what might be entering your lungs. Also troubling is the fact that many health clubs and gyms don’t have good ventilation. When you take a spin class at a health club, you may be crammed into a small space without good air flow.

The Clean Up is Just as Bad!

Ever notice how people grab a spray bottle of cleaning solution to disinfect the machine they used, so someone else doesn’t have to deal with their sweat and germs? If you read the label on what they’re spraying on the equipment and into the air, you’ll see it’s not earth friendly. Standard cleaning products are full of stuff you don’t want to breathe, and when you have a crowded health club full of people spraying those products, you know what happens: the bad stuff builds up.

Most people are so focused on their workout that they don’t think about this issue. After all, it’s called a health club; it MUST be a healthy place to be, so the thinking goes, but it’s not necessarily so. The smaller and more crowded a club is, the less healthy the air is likely to be.

Other Risks of Working Out at a Health Club

Despite attempts to keep a health club clean by using hardcore cleaning products, yoga mats are still a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. According to the New York Times, podiatrists are seeing a rash of cases of Athlete’s foot and plantar warts among health club goers, especially among those who do yoga or Pilates. Whereas people take the time to clean exercise machines, they often neglect to disinfect the exercise mat they just had their feet on. Yuck! Most health clubs don’t clean these mats every day, so you can expect bacteria and fungi to be left behind at the end of a workout class.

Other sources of hidden dirt and germs at the health club: gym bags, exercise balls, locker room floors, gym bags, machines that aren’t wiped off, and towels. Yes, even the “clean” towels may be a source of germs. Many health clubs use the same hampers to hold clean towels and dirty towels.

Wait, there’s more. When flu and cold season rolls around you have to contend with the person next to you on a machine coughing and sneezing because they didn’t want to miss a workout despite being sick. A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found the virus that causes the common cold was on 63% of surfaces that come into contact with hands.

When you work out at home, there’s no guarantee you won’t get the flu, but who needs the extra exposure? When you’re breathing in fast and hard during a workout, your chance of sucking in a virus or bacteria is higher.

The Bottom Line

Working out at a health club may NOT be so good for your health. Enjoy the freedom and control you have when you exercise at home. It’s easier to focus on your workout when you’re not distracted by other people. Home workouts are more convenient, less expensive, and, now you know, they’re better for your health too.

References: “What Are the Six Common Air Pollutants?”

“7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution”. WHO. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2014. “An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)”

The New York Times. “Communal Yoga Mats: Beware of Germs”

Fitness. “Germs at the Gym”

Spark People. “5 Dirty Secrets about Your Workout”

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