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7 Ways to Avoid Allergies and Toxic Pollution at the Gym

Discussion in 'Physical and Sports Medicine' started by Egyptian Doctor, Mar 22, 2011.

  1. Egyptian Doctor

    Egyptian Doctor  Moderator Verified Doctor

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    Some people jokingly say they're allergic to exercise. But the truth is, many of the materials used in gym equipment, pools, and locker rooms are known to cause wheezing, sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes in even the most seasoned gym rats living with allergies. Even worse, harmful chemicals linked to all sorts of serious health problems, including thyroid disease and even obesity (talk about a conflict of interest!), are commonly found inside health clubs.

    Don't worry: A few simple strategies can help you to steer you clear of allergens and harmful compounds in the gym. (Of course, it's always a good idea to figure out what you're actually allergic to in the first place.)

    Avoid these common chemicals that can trigger your allergies.

    Here's how to ID and avoid potential gym pollutants and allergy inducers:

    Yoga Mats

    Breaking into hives every time you perform downward dog is not the Zen-like situation you hoped for in yoga class. If your chakras are itchy, the problem could be the mat, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). While cushy natural rubber mats are a great, ecofriendly option for many yoginis, they're a bad choice for people living with a latex allergy because trace amounts of latex may be present in the rubber mat. But instead of reaching for a toxic PVC mat laced with hormone-heckling plastic chemicals, latex allergy sufferers can find greener, safer mats made of hemp or organic cotton.

    The Pool

    Swimming is great exercise, but chlorine is an asthma trigger for some people. In others, chlorine triggers itchy, red eyes or a rash. If you don't feel well after a water workout, it could be that your pool is not properly ventilated, or the maintenance crew could be using too much chlorine. Ask them to check the levels, but if you still feel awful after swimming laps, it might be time to turn to the treadmill. To cut down on additional chlorine exposure and to cut down on chloroform levels circulated around your house, shower immediately in properly filtered water after swimming.

    The Locker Room

    Don't let your first stop in the gym expose you to triclosan, a common ingredient in antibacterial soaps that is linked to thyroid disease, compromised immune systems, and hormonal chaos that could affect your weight and health. Just last month, a study published in journal Environmental Health Perspectives found a link between triclosan and allergies. Avoid gyms that use antibacterial soaps or, if you're already a member, ask management to start using unscented Green Seal Certified soaps that skip the harmful compounds. Or bring along your own safe soap or hand cleanser, such as ones from Dr. Bronner's or Pangea.

    5 Allergy fighters you might not have thought of.

    Disinfectants and Air Fresheners

    With the potentially deadly MRSA superbug circulating around gyms, and able to live for months on equipment, many gym managers are using toxic disinfectants to wipe out the bacterial bug. Unfortunately, disinfectant sprays can contain hundreds of phthalate-loaded fragrance chemicals and VOCs regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal law. These nasty, but all-too-common, cleaner ingredients are linked to everything from cancer and asthma to headaches and allergies. Making matters worse, using antimicrobial cleaners and soaps is actually making the supergerm situation worse. Instead of wiping machines and equipment down with toxic chemicals, work on keeping your hands away from your face during your workout, and as soon as you're finished working out, get a shower or at the very least wash your hands with regular soap and water—it's a simple solution, and it works. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers have been found to kill MRSA, and alcohol does not lead to antibiotic-resistance. But be sure to find a wipe or gel that is at least 70 percent alcohol and fragrance free.

    On a similar note, if your gym is using air freshener sprays and gels, the indoor air may be dangerously polluted. Tell management these chemicals aren't safe, and that they make it harder for you to breathe.

    The Smoothie/Snack Bar

    Protein bars, shakes, and smoothies may seem tempting after a workout, but people with nut, wheat, egg, soy, or milk allergies should look at labels carefully, and if smoothies are prepared on-site, make sure they have a separate blender to use for those who are sensitive to keep those allergens out of the mix.

    One thought: To avoid taking in the calories you just burned off, you may want to skip smoothies altogether. Many are loaded with excess sugars and sweeteners, including potentially mercury-laced high-fructose corn syrup. Instead, whip up a healthy smoothie at home after a workout, and look to whole, organic foods
     

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