Our gyms: fitness temples or dangerous territories?

For the fitness industry, January is an important month. Our over indulgence in food and drink combined with a decrease in physical activity provides a fertile ground for gym marketeers.

The recommended space behind treadmills is 11 times the length of a credit card.

Commercial fitness centers can be dangerous places. Currently, there are no regulations that govern the setting up and operating these facilities beyond those applied to any commercial business.

Most gyms operate in premises where space is at a premium. To maximize the use of available space, equipment is often placed dangerously close to each other. For example, treadmill injuries are common in gyms, usually resulting from a user being thrown off the back due to a fall or to an inability to keep up with the speed set. The injuries can be severe, especially if there is contact with other equipment, people or a wall. Whilst there are no guidelines about safe distances, the recommended space behind a treadmill is 11 times the length of a credit card. Before we sign up for another tranche of self inflicted penance, we need to make sure our safety not just credit is prioritized.

Gyms can be dangerous places for instructors too. Just under five percent of gym employees are injured whilst working in gyms and that doesn’t include their injuries that come from working out.

Temperature, light and noise levels are also potential hazards in gyms. Utilities such as air conditioning can be expensive in commercial properties. Whilst, there are recommendations for safe air and light in gyms, they are not widely known by users. Temperature should be maintained between 68 and 72°F (20 and 22.2°C) with a humidity index ≤60%. Otherwise overheating can cause dizziness, nausea and loss of consciousness.

Whilst mood lighting appears to be in vogue, the minimum suggested level of gym lighting is ≥50 foot candles (538.2Lux) which is same amount required if you are reading for a long time or doing fine work in a kitchen or workshop. In certain areas, lighting should be much higher eg, in free weights rooms, because exercises there require careful observation to ensure safe technique.

Noise pollution is a growing problem, often precipitated by instructors’ misconceptions eg 85% of instructors believe loud music motivates high intensity class participants but 20% of their attendees find it stressful.

Healthy lifestyles and environments are becoming more important. At a time when the health of the public is becoming less protected, our own vigilance needs to increase.

The attractions of the gym are as enticing as theme parks are to children. We are promised rapid benefit through a variety of activities: classes, trainers, dietary supplements. Caution is thrown to the wind as we race to regain some semblance of our previous year’s fitness, physique and psyche. We place our trust in the fitness temples.

Before we sign up to a gym for another month or year we need to make sure our safety, not just fitness, is protected.

2 thoughts on “Our gyms: fitness temples or dangerous territories?

  1. Great piece. Interesting points about the noise levels, space and light. Another safety issue is technique especially for weights and other equipment. Rarely are gym members supervised using this equipment and poor technique is not corrected, unless of course someone has a personal trainer and the member is paying an additional sum to have someone work along side them and set a programme.
    There is a lot more work to be done on this. MSK injuries about in addition to over exertion for those with AF,CHD, asthma and other long term conditions.
    New members are may receive an initial induction but after that members are on their own. Classes are often overcrowded and supervision limited or non existent.
    There is a huge piece of work to be done here on health and safety issues in gyms. Few people report accidents and most gyms do not accept liability for accident or injury. Having said that guess where I am off to now?


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