In a recent review, researchers compile previous studies to examine the relationship between air quality and human health in fitness centers.
Air pollution is an environmental health problem that accounts for one out of eight deaths worldwide as noted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2012. In fitness centers, where a high rate of physical activity increases air intake (breathing) there is the possibility of inhaling large amounts of pollutants. Additionally, since mouth breathing is common during intense exercise, the particle-filtering function of the nasal cavity is by-passed resulting in an additional health risk. In this light, Andrade and Dominski decided to investigate the indoor air quality of fitness centers by systematically analyzing published research on the topic.
In their study that was published in the Journal of Environmental Management, these researchers searched online libraries that index journals on health, sports and environmental sciences from their date of inception up to 13th April 2017 using the keywords “air pollution”, “air pollutants” or “air quality” as well as “physical exercise”, “physical activity” or “sport”. They limited their search to articles on indoor air quality of fitness centers that were published in English. Information that was extracted from these articles for analysis were classified into five categories, namely: monitoring of indoor air quality according to guidelines, the relationship between indoor and outdoor environmental pollutants, indoor air quality during physical exercise, the impact of air pollution on human health, and interventions to improve indoor air quality.
The researchers identified 34 articles that met the inclusion criteria. Although there were studies done on gymnasiums, gyms and fitness centers, most of the studies focused on indoor skating and hockey rinks in the United States and Canada.
The most investigated pollutants were carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxide. Nine out of 12 studies that compared indoor to outdoor air quality showed higher concentrations of some pollutants in indoor than in outdoor fitness centers. Two studies investigated interventions to improve indoor air quality, and seven studies were able to show that the concentration of pollutants in an environment was influenced by the number of people occupying the space and the intensity of exercise performed. Seven out of the 34 eligible studies investigated the impact of indoor air pollution on human health.
These results show that studies on indoor air quality were conducted mostly on ice skating rinks in the past while recent studies focus on gymnasiums, fitness centers, and sports centers. In most studies, the pollutants that were evaluated were within limits established by guidelines. However, the negative effect of pollutants in human health was demonstrated by some studies. Since indoor environment used for physical exercise increases the number of people who are potentially exposed to pollutants, there is a need to better assess the impact of pollution in these establishments. The relationship between pollution and health needs to be studied further.
Written by Asongna T. Folefoc
Reference: Andrade A, Dominski FH. Indoor air quality of environments used for physical exercise and sports practice: Systematic review. Journal of Environmental Management. 206 (2018) 577e586 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.11.001