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—or just skip smoothies altogether. Many are loaded with harmful food dyes and 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—not energy bars—for your meals.
If every workout leaves you itching, your clothing could be to blame. Cheap, synthetic materials like polyester and nylon, used in everything from shirts to underwear, sometimes cause people with sensitive skin to feel like they're coming down with the chicken pox. Check clothing labels before you purchase; Lycra (spandex) is less likely to irritate, according to the ACAAI. Better yet, look for natural fibers, including high-quality, naturally wicking wool.
Be sure to avoid workout clothing, socks, and underwear marketed as "odor-fighting," "odor-free," "antimicrobial," or "Microban." These things could contain compounds that many public health experts say to avoid.
Your Exercise Technique
Jumping headfirst into strenuous exercise without properly warming up could prompt exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), a condition characterized by a tight chest and trouble breathing, generally seen in people with asthma, but sometimes in people without respiratory problems. Try warmup and cool-down techniques and to curb EIB, breathe through your nose rather than your mouth when you exercise. If you're sick with a cold and have asthma, stay put. Viruses can trigger an asthma attack.
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