A walk across the gym is no stroll through a field of alluring lilacs. The smell of sweat is bad enough. But gyms, it seems, produce a special airborne concoction. And researchers say science needs to determine if it has any effect on one’s health.
Let’s start with a weird tidbit. The body of that guy on the stationary bike who’s sweating and panting himself into a better body emits as many chemicals into the air as up to five sedentary people.
Now, we’re not talking about hydrochloric acid. These emissions include harmless amino acids from sweat and acetone from breath. No biggie.
But scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder set up an experiment and discovered something interesting. They outfitted a weight room in the university’s athletic center with high-tech air-sampling equipment capable of measuring chemicals in the air in real time. Data were measured during and after athletes worked out.
Now, gyms often use a chlorine bleach-based product to sanitize exercise equipment to eliminate that nasty patina of accumulated sweat. That cleaner does a good job of killing surface bacteria. But in a bit of gym alchemy, it also produces a new product that can be inhaled.
The chlorine from the bleach cleaner reacts with amino acids from sweat. And then, poof — something called N-chloraldimines [N-chloral-DI-mines] are produced.
Just how this impacts air quality requires further study. Researchers note, however, that chemically similar reactions have been shown to be harmful to your health.
Even so, scientists say say a well-ventilated gym with low occupancy should still be relatively safe, especially at a time when so many of us are wearing masks anyway.