With the COVID-19 pandemic slowing down, gyms and fitness centers are rapidly reopening following long-term closures and operational challenges. Gyms have always been a place for communities to achieve health goals and improve wellness. However, with existing and new challenges presented by the pandemic, gyms may be presenting their customers with higher risks of airborne contaminants and viral transmission. Read on to learn why indoor air quality (IAQ) is now a crucial consideration for fitness centers reopening and maintaining healthy indoor environments for their gymgoers.
For gyms and fitness centers, indoor air quality is often an invisible and forgotten consideration when determining the facility's indoor environmental quality. In these facilities, there are two main contributors to poor indoor quality; the first is building occupants (customers), and the second is the building itself.
According to a study conducted by the University of Colorado, an exercising human can emit five times the average amount of chemicals from their body. These emissions, such as acetone, carbon dioxide, and amino acids, can combine with existing airborne chemicals to create harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Additionally, the increased respiratory function of customers can also heighten the transmission of airborne pathogens through aerosol droplets.
Fitness center buildings also naturally emit additional airborne contaminants such as VOCs, formaldehyde, CO2, and PM (particulate matter). Common sources of these airborne contaminants in these facilities include exercise equipment, vinyl mats, carpeting, composite wood, and adhesives. In high-humidity areas such as locker rooms, bathrooms, saunas, spas, and pool areas, gyms may also have airborne mold and fungi.
In the high-occupancy environments of fitness centers, exposure to these airborne contaminants may adversely affect customer health. Therefore, it is essential to consider what actions need to be taken to reduce the presence of these airborne pollutants.
When providing clean air to their customers, gyms need to assess their current air filtration and ventilation capabilities to determine the best methods to improve their indoor air quality. Now more than ever, there are numerous options on the market for improving IAQ. However, only a few tried and true methods will help ensure your gymgoers will be breathing clean air.
In fitness centers, HVAC and ventilation systems play a critical role in providing climate controls and distributing fresh air. As part of ASHRAE and CDC guidance, gyms have been recommended to install MERV 13 filters into their HVAC systems to further expand their effectiveness in reducing airborne contaminants. However, in complex and high-density indoor environments such as gyms, further air purification is needed to reduce airborne pathogens, including COVID-19.
As a result, numerous fitness center facilities have looked toward electronic air cleaning technologies which install directly into existing HVAC systems and ductwork. Among all induct air purification technologies, ActivePure® has rapidly become the industry leader for safety and efficacy. Featured in the ActivePure® Induct Guardian, this air purification solution is scalable to provide unrivaled airborne pathogen protection throughout entire facilities. In gyms, ActivePure® can deliver measurable results in reducing a wide range of common airborne infectious pathogens.
With the increased aerosol transmission in fitness centers resulting from customer physical activity, a critical component to improving indoor air quality is increasing air exchanges and filtration. The best method to achieve these goals is to implement portable HEPA air purifiers with high-CFM (airflow) ratings.
For air purifiers, HEPA filtration is the gold standard in mechanical air filtration. True HEPA filters are rated to capture 99.97% of airborne particulate as small as 0.3 microns in size. In fitness centers, this allows True HEPA air purifiers to capture airborne viruses, bacteria, mold, fungi, dust, and allergens. When combined with an activated carbon filter, air purifiers can also reduce airborne VOCs, ambient odors, and harmful gases.
However, air purifiers are only as effective as their airflow ratings (CFM and CADR). In high-occupancy indoor environments such as gyms, it is recommended to use air purifiers that have airflow ratings that can support 3-4 air exchanges per hour. For example, in a gym with 5000ft2 and 20ft ceilings, 20 or more air purifiers running with at least a 200 CFM rating would be recommended.
Another effective method to achieve increased air exchanges in gyms is installing industrial ceiling fans. Given the open and high-ceiling design of fitness centers, ceiling fans are an excellent addition to improving air distribution across the entire facility.
Industrial ceiling fans can often deliver CFM ratings between 1,000 to 10,000, allowing for an optimal hourly air exchange rate. When combined in practice with CDC operational guidelines alongside upgraded HVAC systems and portable air purifiers, gyms can achieve continuous air quality improvements promoting healthier indoor environments for their customers.
After implementing the appropriate changes and facility alterations to improve indoor air quality in a gym, the next step is to focus on disinfection. Many fitness centers, especially post-pandemic, already practice rigorous cleaning protocols to ensure customer health and safety. These protocols typically include sterilizing surfaces, high-touchpoints, and workout equipment with commercial multi-purpose cleaners and disinfectants.
Since the pandemic, some fitness centers have also employed the use of electrostatic foggers or electrostatic chemical sprayers. However, like indoor air quality, surface disinfection should always be achieved with the most effective method possible UV-C disinfection. UV-C disinfection available in both stand-alone and autonomous robot forms has long been proven to eliminate bacteria, viruses, and pathogens on surfaces rapidly.
For fitness centers, employing the use of UV-C disinfection is now more affordable and versatile than ever. Modern UV-C systems can enable existing cleaning and janitorial staff to provide hospital-grade and chemical-free disinfection throughout an entire facility. Learn more about how UV-C robot disinfection can improve your building occupant's safety by reading our recommended blog, "Disinfecting Droids And UV-C Robot Sanitization."
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