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Clean Air & Exercise | Why Indoor Air Quality Matters

Clean Air & Exercise | Why Indoor Air Quality Matters
Jamie Haleva
Community User11 months ago
View Jamie Haleva's profile

Are you breathing in clean air while working out?

May is National Clean Air Month, during which many make an effort to improve the quality of our air. When you think about contaminated air, outdoor air and pollution are typically the first things that come to mind. But Clean Air Month doesn’t just apply to the air outside— there is now a focus on improving indoor air quality (IAQ) as well.1

As we know, most gyms and fitness centers are indoor facilities; this means that gym-goers and trainers are spending a decent amount of time breathing in gym air while exercising. Let’s see why your gym’s air quality matters, and what you can look out for to ensure your gym is keeping the air as clean as possible.

Why is Indoor Air Quality Important?

Americans spend an estimated 90% of their time indoors 2, which means we are constantly breathing in indoor air. If our indoor air has high levels of pollutants, that means we are regularly being exposed to chemicals and microbes that are detrimental to our health. Further, the concentration of pollutants indoors can sometimes be amplified, with concentrations of certain pollutants getting to levels two to five times higher than standard outdoor concentrations. 2

There are many pollutants in indoor air that can pose a threat to health, including combustion byproducts like carbon monoxide, mold, pesticides, and more. 2

Poor indoor air quality can cause symptoms like irritated eyes, nose, or mouth, headaches, and fatigue, and even lead to the development of major diseases in the long run like respiratory disease, heart disease, and cancer. 2

Air Quality and Exercise

Breathing in clean air is always important, but it’s especially crucial if you’re performing physical activity. This is because when exercising, your body requires more oxygen, meaning you breathe more often and more air enters your lungs. 3

Additionally, when you’re performing physical activity, you inhale most air through your mouth. This means the air is not going through the normal filtration system present in your nasal passage, which can filter out large particles.4 Both of these mechanisms mean that more pollutants are getting into your body during exercise. So when you’re breathing more often and breathing through your mouth, it becomes especially important that the air entering your body is clean and safe.

Gym Air

The air in gyms and fitness facilities can be more prone to harboring unwanted pollutants. Some of the reasons for this include:

  1. A gym is an enclosed space. Without proper ventilation, levels of air pollutants that are already present can get amplified.2
  2. An active person emits significantly more chemicals from their body during exercise than someone who is not active.5
  3. In gyms, cleaners like bleach cleaners are often used to clean the equipment and facility. Human emissions like amino acids from sweat or acetone from breath can combine with bleach cleaners to form new chemicals in the air. 5
  4. Gyms can have higher levels of bacteria due to the number of people that pass through, and increased levels of moisture and water condensation. 6;7

So when it comes to gyms and working out, it is extra vital that we ensure the air we’re breathing is clean.

What Can You Do About It?

If you want to assess if your gym’s indoor air quality is up to par, one thing you can do is ask gym management if your facility has had an indoor air quality test done.

Other things to look out for are proper ventilation, a quality air filtration system, regular cleaning/disinfecting, and the use of air purifiers.4;6


Take Home Message

Air pollutants and toxins are hard to avoid in this day and age. But being aware of how indoor air quality can affect your health, and common air quality issues found in gyms, will give you the power to look out for proper air quality maintenance and hygiene when getting your exercise in.

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  1. Clean Air Month. National Today. (n.d.).,the%20United%20States%20during%20May.
  2. Environmental Protection Agency. (2021, September 7). Indoor Air Quality— What are the trends in indoor air quality and their effects on human health . EPA.,%E2%80%9CIndoor%20air%20quality&text=Americans%2C%20on%20average%2C%20spend%20approximately,higher%20than%20typical%20outdoor%20concentrations.
  3. Your lungs and exercise. Breathe (Sheff). 2016 Mar;12(1):97-100. doi: 10.1183/20734735.ELF121. PMID: 27066145; PMCID: PMC4818249.
  4. C.A. Ramos, H.T. Wolterbeek, S.M. Almeida, Exposure to indoor air pollutants during physical activity in fitness centers, Building and Environment,Volume 82, 2014, Pages 349-360, ISSN 0360-1323, (
  5. X, U. of C. at B. (2021, January 5). Sweat, Bleach and Gym Air Quality.
  6. Staszowska, Amelia & Dudzińska, Marzenna. (2021). CHAPTER 18 Indoor air quality in fitness facilities. 10.1201/9781003171669-18.
  7. Ramos CA, Viegas C, Verde SC, Wolterbeek HT, Almeida SM. Characterizing the fungal and bacterial microflora and concentrations in fitness centres. Indoor and Built Environment. 2016;25(6):872-882. doi:10.1177/1420326X15587954
Jamie Haleva
Community User
View Jamie Haleva's profile

A Rutgers University Honors graduate, Jamie grew up on the Jersey shore and double majored in Comparative Literature and Anthropology in college. Jamie is an experienced writer in the health and wellness, biotech, and eCommerce fields. She loves writing with a purpose and has even written for the Department of Justice.

Jamie became drawn to exercise during her time in university and began to notice the physical and mental benefits of moving your body daily. Today, Jamie enjoys Pilates, light weight training, and going on long walks in nature daily.

Jamie is also passionate about eating right and prioritizing gut health and immunity. She is always trying the next innovation in health and wellness. When she’s not writing articles, Jamie enjoys reading, playing guitar, and finding dogs to play with.