2019 is shaping up to be the year of toxin-free fitness. This new trend, popular with bloggers and wellness gurus alike, asks us to rethink how we approach fitness through a larger lens on physical health. The goal is to practice mindfulness when it comes to spending time around facilities and products that might prove more harmful than helpful – and to be wary of actual toxic substances that might be present in fitness environments.
What is toxin-free fitness? Simply put, it is a wellness-oriented approach to exercise that emphasises reduced exposure to toxic chemicals found in fitness equipment, environment and attitude.
What can make fitness toxic?
Toxins prove difficult to avoid because they exist in many common fitness products and environments. You might be surprised to hear toxins lurk in:
Things like yoga mats are often manufactured using toxic chemicals that can harm the body. A common toxin found in gym equipment is polyvinyl chloride (PVC). A popular synthetic used to coat fitness equipment, PVC is used in a variety of sporting products.
When equipment is manufactured or infused with toxic chemicals, the damage continues. Toxins radiate after production, eventually seeping into the environment when equipment is thrown out or discarded.
Many athleticwear companies employ a slew of toxic dyes and chemicals to get the cute design and lasting durability consumers want in leggings and tops. The truth is, even though these brands provide affordable, comfortable styles that tend to last a long time, the chemicals they use may hurt your fitness goals more than help.
Our workout clothes experience high friction, heat and moisture — making it more likely for hazardous chemicals to interact with our skin.
Locker rooms, fitness studios and pools all contain surfaces that attract dirt and toxins from sweat, equipment and clothes. Many facilities encourage users to sanitize equipment after using, but this often proves difficult to enforce and monitor.
The antibacterial soap and cleaning agents many gyms provide contain toxins like triclosan, which can negatively impact your immune system and hormone regulation. Pools with high amounts of chlorine can prove harmful as well.
We could all probably guess that gym equipment gets grimy. But did you know that air quality in your gym can also affect your health? Researchers found high levels of carcinogens like formaldehyde in many fitness center atmospheres.
Air quality in gyms decreases with the number of people participating in vigorous aerobic activities. Larger groups of people exhale greater amounts of carbon dioxide, which filters and recirculates throughout the room. While these levels aren’t high enough to be toxic, they raise the risk of spreading disease and accumulating unhealthy growths.
One fitness space that is combating air pollution is Studio26 in New York, which uses a “living wall” of green foliage to combat air pollution.
“While NYC is not known for being the most healthy of environments, it is indeed fertile ground for commerce, art, culture, ideas, and those who aspire to make a difference. As a native New Yorker, I dreamed of an oasis in NYC to help people be their best, for the long-term,” says Studio 26 founder Jared Kaplan. “In creating an oasis in NYC for those people it was critical for me to not only apply systems to improve health (air-cleaning plant wall, renewal resources such as cork and bamboo, and much more), but also provide a platform for wellness professional to be healthy as well. We support professionals to do their best work in the same way we enhance the body’s ability to function well; both perform optimally given a supportive environment. Phytoremediation is one tool of many we’ve used to express our intention of a heathy space, better business, and stronger community. Our plant walls have become an icon of that intention: the space not only looks good, but functions well.”
It’s no secret that working out in public can be nerve-wracking for some. In a perfect world, all gyms would welcome newcomers and encourage members to seek out fresh workouts and experiences. But many gyms and fitness centers don’t adopt this mentality. The resulting demeanor creates a culture of intimidation.
When people feel pressured or uncomfortable, they’re less likely to engage — even if they know exercise will increase their health and happiness. This attitude of exclusionary fitness can prove toxic to mental health.
How to Make Fitness Toxin-Free?
With a little diligence, you can keep your wellness regimes healthy and fun. Here are some ways to make fitness toxin-free:
- Shop ethical activewear brands that use natural materials. More and more brands are responding to growing toxin concern by adopting environmentally conscious practices, while still producing cute clothes.
- Find fitness equipment from companies committed to ethical and sustainable production. Products spanning from ethically manufactured yoga mats to eco-friendly medicine balls are now available.
- Clean your clothes and equipment properly. Avoid detergents and softeners containing dangerous chemicals. Look for ones with natural ingredients and no harmful toxins on the label.
- Wash your hands often. We hear this mantra all throughout flu season — keeping your hands clean works wonders at the gym, too.
- Prioritise mental and emotional health alongside physical health. Intense lifting sessions and challenging treadmill sprints certainly produce gains, but opting for something different, and maybe slower, can prove invigorating as well.
Dedicating time to thoughtful mediation on your goals will help you select the right products and practices for you.
Commit to a toxin-Free fitness resolution
Toxin-free fitness is one of 2019’s solutions to increasing concern about public health and wellness. As more companies and consumers jump on board and participate in the trend, we’ll likely see this resolution stick. Commit to a safer fitness routine this year to reap the health benefits!
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Photos by Bruce Mars via Unsplash