This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.
The air quality and ventilation is a pretty big concern in a home gym. If you’re not careful, your home gym isn’t only uncomfortable, it can actually harm your health.
Air quality is important in a home gym for both health and comfort. In most spaces it’s not a big concern but in the basement or attic, it’s worth thinking about. Improper ventilation can lead to smells, mold, high humidity and just an overall uncomfortable and unhealthy environment to work out in.
In most cases it’s not too difficult to improve the air quality in your home gym. Below you can find out how to do it and which specific things you should worry about.
Why is air quality important in a home gym?
Is air quality really that big of an issue for a home gym? You’re there to work out, not to relax. That’s true but air quality has bigger impacts than just being able to be comfortable. Your home gym is a place where you work hard and breathe deeper and more than anywhere else.
That makes the air quality in your home gym even more important than other places in the house. Indoor air quality can often be worse than outside.
Besides that, a home gym is often in a room that’s not used often and already has worse air quality than other places in the house.
It would be ironic if the place in your house you go to become healthier would be the place that is making you sick.
Air quality, comfort or necessary?
There are two goals that both require having good air quality or improving it. Some aspects of improving air quality have a big impact on your health. Other parts are more for comfort. We’ll dive into what measure is important for which goal a little later. First it’s important to be aware of the two different goals.
While working out, you breathe a lot. If the air you breathe is of lower quality than it could be, it can have negative health effects and it’s less comfortable to work out in your home gym leading to fewer workouts.
It’s important to know because it’s the difference between things you HAVE to improve and things you WANT TO improve. Obviously the factors that influence your health should be addressed first. If you want to improve the air quality for comfort that’s perfectly fine but health should come first.
Of course there is a big overlap between the two goals. Most measures you take to improve the air quality have an impact on both the health and comfort. Being uncomfortable isn’t a bad thing, it’ll make you stronger. Being in an unhealthy space is probably uncomfortable and will make you weaker in the long run as well.
Workout impact on air quality
Working out in a space will deteriorate the air quality pretty quickly. You’re using all the oxygen, creating heat, sweating, making things dirty, etc. During one workout session, the air quality will take a significant hit. Think about when you were younger and you walk into your classroom on a hot day. The smells and heat smack you in the face.
Now if you don’t take proper care of your home gym, the next times you work out it’s only going to get worse if you don’t clean your equipment, get rid of all the sweat and moisture. Heat and moisture are the perfect environment for many bad things to grow. At that point it becomes a health concern instead of only a comfort thing.
What are factors of air quality in a home gym?
Before we can find out how to improve the air quality in our home gym, we first have to know what makes air bad. Some of these factors are just related to comfort, others to health although there is a strong interplay between those factors that influences both comfort and health. For example, a higher temperature allows bad things to grow quicker.
Let’s go over what the different factors are;
The first factor is the most obvious. The temperature of a room is very important. Humans can work in a pretty wide range of temperatures so for the most part, temperature is just a comfort problem. If you’re living in an extreme climate and your home gym gets very hot or cold, it becomes a health issue as well.
As long as you stay hydrated and listen to your body you can work out in pretty high and low temperatures.
Low temperatures are pretty easy to deal with as long as your hands don’t freeze to the equipment and get frostbitten. When working out your body temperature rises quickly and that makes it possible to work out in pretty low temperatures. It’s unlikely that the temperature in your home gym will drop under the freezing point so low temperatures will be safe. If you live in a location with extremely cold weather and your home gym is in a space that isn’t hooked up to the central heating, it can possibly be too cold.
The rise in body temperature that helps you to work out in cold environments makes it a bit more difficult to get a good workout in high temperatures. Different people have different tolerances for temperatures and how well they can be active in higher temperatures. The dangers of working out in high temperatures are dehydration and possibly heatstroke. The closer the temperature in your home gym gets, the more difficult it will be for your body to control your core temperature.
If you’re concerned about cold, check out these two posts;
The next factor is air humidity. While a certain humidity can feel comfortable or uncomfortable, it also has a big impact on the safety of a space. The humidity is one of the biggest factors in the growth of mold.
The humidity in your home gym can be influenced by many things;
- The general humidity in the area you live in
- Which space your home gym is in. The basement is generally more humid than other rooms.
- Water intrusion. Water can come in through the wall and foundation.
- How much you sweat
- Airflow in your home gym
Bad smells are both uncomfortable and often an indication that something is wrong. Humans have a sense of smell and the most likely use for that is; discovering things you want to eat and detecting things you should stay away from. Ok that’s a very basic explanation but covers what is important for this point.
What that means is that if a place smells bad, it probably means there is something in there you should stay away from. So if your home gym has bad smells, you might want to investigate where it’s coming from. The source of the smell could be something innocuous but it could also be something that you don’t want anywhere near you.
When people talk about air quality outside, they are often talking about the levels of dust and chemicals that are swirling around. This is more of a problem outside in urban areas but outside air will come inside at some point. Once it gets inside there is no reason why it would suddenly be clean (unless it passes through a filter first) so it still poses a problem.
There might also be things inside the house that cause dust and other pollution. DIY projects, redecoration, pets, people, etc. all create dust. If this isn’t managed correctly, the levels can get to pretty unhealthy levels quickly.
Dust and other particulate matter can consist of many different things. Some people are more sensitive to dust or particular types of dust than other people but at a certain level, everyone will experience some health problems from dust.
Dust can come from outside but also inside from other rooms in the house or the home gym itself. Some people are more sensitive to dust than others but less dust is always good for everyone.
Spaces with bad ventilation and high humidity are prone to being contaminated with mold. Working out somewhere will draw a lot of liquids out of your body that will raise the humidity. Add bad ventilation to this and you’ve turned your home gym into the perfect environment for mold to grow.
If you’re not careful you might one day be greeted by a ‘nice’ green, white or black patch of mold.
Mold or more specifically, mold spores have a whole host of negative health effects. Check out this healthline article for some symptoms of mold contamination.
Reading that I think it’s safe to say you really don’t want any mold in a room where you spend a lot of hours breathing the air in deeply like a gym.
There are five things that are needed for mold to grow, but water is the factor that every type of mold requires to survive and grow. It’s also the easiest factor to control. The other factors are temperature, light, nutrients, and PH (mold likes a slightly acidic environment).
The easiest way to control mold is to keep humidity. The EPA mentions that to prevent mold to grow you should keep the relative humidity under 60% and ideally between 30% and 50%.
Humans need oxygen to survive. Working out and breathing hard makes your body use/need more oxygen than when you’re sleeping. That makes it extra important to make sure you have enough. Even in a room that’s completely closed off, it’ll take quite a while to actually run out of oxygen. You’ll likely be done with your workout before anything noticeable happens.
CO2 is a bigger concern than oxygen anyways. Your body turns part of the oxygen you breathe into CO2. CO2 in high concentrations is dangerous more quickly than low oxygen is. If you’ve got any appliances or installations that create CO2 in the same space as your home gym, this could be a problem.
Most home gyms won’t be completely closed off anyways. A small draft through the room will probably be enough to prevent any serious problems.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. In some places it can rise up through the foundation and accumulate in a space with bad ventilation. It’s odorless, tasteless and invisible so the only way to know if it’s present in your home gym is to measure it with specialized equipment.
It’s possible Radon can build up in spaces that are tightly sealed, don’t have any airflow and are in an area where there are naturally occurring radioactive compounds in the soil. Many home gyms are in a basement which is actually a common place for radon to accumulate.
At low levels it’s not dangerous and people breathe it every day since it’s everywhere. At high concentrations it can have some serious health effects. Read this article for more information.
If you’ve got problems with radon in your house, it’s best to ask advice from professionals. The best solution is to prevent it from entering your house but proper ventilation is important to prevent a space from accumulating high levels.
Airflow is not a direct factor of air quality but a lack of airflow in a space will allow the air quality to decline very quickly. A lack of air flow can cause all kinds of things to accumulate that are bad for you. Radon, dust, co2, bad smells, mold and humidity are all things that can be building up if there isn’t proper airflow. In some cases airflow from outside the room might not be enough to solve all those problems but it sure helps a lot.
Improving air quality in your home gym
Now onto the meat of the matter, how can you improve the air quality in your home gym? There are a few things you can do. Which solution is the best for you depends on what your problem(s) is/are. Not all solutions can solve all problems. More on that later, let’s first take a look at what solutions there are.
How to improve your home gym air quality;
- Air purifier
- Air freshener
The simplest but one of the most effective things you can do is just open your doors and/or windows. It will create a natural airflow that replaces the air in the room quicker than any appliance can.
Every space has at least one door even if there are no windows. Some basements have small windows that can’t open. If your home gym has windows like that, consider changing that. Having a door and some windows that open up can make a massive difference.
Having two openings in one space creates airflow and this can prevent a lot of the problems outlined above.
Maybe you’ve only got the door or the airflow is still insufficient with everything open. Adding a fan can help. Putting a big fan in the doorway while working out can help you push more fresh air into a room.
Feeling airflow on your skin can also help when you’re dealing with high temperatures. A fan won’t actually cool down the air it just pushes it around. It does help cool down your skin however by quickly replacing the air around you. Cooling down your skin helps your body keep your core temperature under control. Because a big part of the cooling effect is by evaporating your sweat quicker, you’ll have to make sure to stay hydrated.
A fan is only in use at the same time you’re using the gym. Most of the time you are not using your home gym, unless you work out 13 hours a day. It’s important to have fresh air in there all of the time however. Since it’s when you’re not there when all the bad bugs grow.
Having some ventilation that always keeps a bit of fresh air going into your home gym will do wonders for keeping everything as it should be.
Ventilation comes in different versions. There is natural ventilation. This is basically just a hole somewhere that allows air to come in. Now if you’ve got two of those holes, the air can easily move in and out and keep the air fresh.
Mechanical ventilation means you have a fan pushing in or pulling out the air of a room. In some rooms natural ventilation might not be possible or enough. It those cases it’s good to have mechanical ventilation to get the extra fresh air in there.
The benefit of this kind of ventilation is that it’s always refreshing the air even when you’re not there. Natural ventilation doesn’t cost any electricity so it’s free. Mechanical ventilation costs a little bit of electricity but not much compared to other solutions like A/C.
A/C is a solution that actually does something about the air instead of just replacing it with air from outside.
Air conditioning does two main things;
- Lower the temperature
- Lower the humidity
Both those functions are mostly for comfort reasons. And that is fine. Making your home gym more comfortable so you’ll actually use it is very important. If you want to be healthier and stronger, you’ll actually have to use your gym and if having cooler air helps with that, go for it.
Lowering the humidity obviously helps with a more comfortable atmosphere but it also helps preventing bad smells, mold and other microorganisms from growing. Over the long run, having A/C in your home gym will keep it fresher for a longer time.
Home air conditioners don’t really filter the air. Most models come with a particle filter that filters some of the bigger particles and dust. It won’t remove the smaller dust particles and dangerous gasses. It also doesn’t filter mold spores although mold can grow in the a/c filter.
If you can hook up your home gym to your house’s HVAC system with more power, better filters, etc. that would be even better than having a split or window A/C unit. If the space you want to use isn’t hooked up yet, it’s a financial decision if it’s right for you. In some houses it’s really easy to do but in others it’s difficult and costs a lot of money. In that case it’s probably better to get a separate unit.
Air purifiers start where air conditioners stop. Air purifiers don’t cool the air or change the humidity but they filter it. Air purifiers come in many shapes, sizes and capabilities. Most common home air filters have two filters;
- Activated carbon
HEPA filters catch small particles like dust and other things down to about 0.03 micron. This includes mold spores.
Activated carbon filters out toxins in gas form.
The combination of those two filters is enough for the contaminants found in most homes. Keep in mind that air purifiers don’t take away the sources of those pollutants. They are great at cleaning the air you breathe in. If your contaminants come from the outside an air purifier is the best solution. If the pollutants are from inside the house, try to fix the problem.
A simple air freshener can help you to cover up any bad smells. I’m not sure I can advise you to get one however. Bad smells usually signal that something is wrong. Smells could be warning you that there is something unhealthy you have to take care of.
If you’ve made sure that the smell isn’t caused by something dangerous or you just want to cover it up temporarily until you take care of it, an air freshener is an option to make things a bit more bearable in the meantime.
Air fresheners are cheap and do what they’re supposed to do; cover up smells.
If you’ve got some pretty bad moisture problems and don’t want to run your A/C non-stop, you can consider getting a dehumidifier. They are pretty cheap and don’t use as much power as an air conditioner.
In the long run, fixing the source of your moisture problems is a better solution but in some houses this is very difficult and/or expensive. In that case a dehumidifier is much cheaper and for the money you’d spend on fixing the problems you could pay a whole lot of electric bills.
So if you’ve got moisture problems and are not going to fix the source, get a dehumidifier. This will prevent many health risks later on.
Plants are natures air purifiers. Not all plants are suitable to improve air quality inside however. Some plants are much better at absorbing VOC’s (volatile organic compounds). VOC’s are a long list of compounds that occur in our modern environments.
The problem is that many home gyms are in the basement or garage. Those places don’t have a lot of natural light. This means that;
- Many plants won’t survive in this environment
- Many plants that would be effective in absorbing VOC’s with enough light, are not effective without light.
Luckily there are some plants that can deal with both problems. They can survive without a lot of light and are still good at removing dangerous compounds.
Here’s the top 3 of best plants for low light conditions;
- Peace Lily
- Boston Fern
- Chinese Evergreen
The Peace Lily was found by NASA to be the best at filtering VOC’s. It should actually be kept out of the sunlight since it can damage the leaves. You have to water it only once a week so it’s really easy to maintain as well.
Keep things clean
One of the simplest things you can do (and everyone should do) is to keep your home gym clean. Vacuum, mop, dust, wash, etc. Dirt and sweat is where nasty things grow quickly. These things can destroy your air quality and even pose health risks.
It’s very basic and most people aren’t savages so that’s why I put this last. If you are a caveman that never cleans anything, consider it. You might discover it has some great benefits!
Most things are easy enough to clean by yourself. If you’ve got mold problems you might want to consider getting some professional help. Cleaning mold can actually spread it out everywhere and you want to get ever little bit of it so it doesn’t grow back again. If you’re not sure what you’re doing it’s actually possible to make the problem worse.
Other things can just be washed and cleaned like you would do with other things in your house. Make sure you don’t forget the filters in your A/C and air purifier. Those filters can actually become sources of pollution if they’re not cleaned/changed in time.
What do you need to improve air quality?
Above there are a ton of things you can do to increase the air quality in your home gym. Some are easy some require some work. But what should you do in your situation? That depends on a few things.
- Where do you live?
- Which room are you using?
- How’s your current air quality?
Every place in the world has its own climate. In some places there’s great weather year round without being too polluted, hot, cold, wet or dry. In other places you’ll always have one or two of the previous problems.
In the places that have awesome weather, you can just take the air from outside and have that perfect temperature, humidity, etc. in your home gym. In other places you’ll need some other appliances to get everything right.
Especially the basement is very susceptible to moisture and the problems that brings with it. Other rooms can have to same or other problems. Try to assess which of the problems listed above are a possible issue in the room you want to use.
How’s your current air quality
Maybe the most important question. Every house is different. If the room you have in mind for building you home gym has great air already you don’t have to do much. Just keep it clean and have a little ventilation so the humidity your sweating creates disperses.
If the atmosphere is already questionable there, you’ll need something else.
How to improve the air quality in your home gym
So it largely depends on where you live and your house what you need to do. There are a few things everyone should do regardless of your situation.
- Keep things clean. Don’t give any bad bugs the chance to grow.
- Have airflow. Have some kind of opening that allows fresh air to go in and prevent the accumulation of all kind of bad things.
- Get a plant. Plants help to keep your air clean. They are cheap, look good and require little maintenance. There’s no downside to getting one.
Beyond those three steps, it depends on your personal situation. Look at the chart below to find out what you can do in your situation.
|Too cold||Work harder||Space heater|
|Too humid||Fix water intrusion||Ventilation||A/C||Dehumidifier|
|Bad smells||Keep things clean||Find source & fix it||Manage humidity||Air freshener|
|Mold||Clean it up||Manage humidity||Air purifier|
|Dust/air pollution||Air purifier||Plants|
Is working out with the A/C on harmful? No, as long as the A/C is properly working and clean, working out in an air-conditioned room is not harmful. The temperature of a room can influence how long it takes up to warm up and cool down. A hot and humid room might actually cause you to be exhausted earlier and have a worse workout.
Many people often forget a few important pieces of their home gym that isn’t directly gym equipment. Here are my favorite home gym tools.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and all types of other workouts, the GymNext Flex is easily the best and easiest to use.
- Mirrors: Fab & Glass (Amazon link) makes the best large mirror sheets so you can see your exercise form.
- Flooring: American Floor Mats gym flooring (Amazon) or equipment mats make your gym quieter, easier to clean and keeps your floor and equipment safe.
- Fan: The Rowenta VU5670 (Amazon) is a great way to stay cool while working out.