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, are commonly found inside health clubs.
If you don't want to undo all your hard efforts with chemicals that will make you fat and unhealthy, 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.)
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 most 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.
If you're not allergic to latex, try a sustainable yoga mat, like the Gaiam Sol Shakti Rubber Yoga Mat or any mat from Jade Yoga.
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 consider a saltwater pool, which disinfects water without the use of chlorine. Some gyms have started to move away from chlorine, but the only way to know that is to call around to the pools in your area. 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. Finally, keep an eye out for gym equipment marked "antibacterial." Though triclosan isn't the only chemical used in such products, there's no way for you to know what was used.
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