The Truth about Air Conditioning in Gyms

I am a gym regular for the last five years and not one day has passed when I haven’t witnessed or participated in the “fight for the air-conditioner”. The gym junta is clearly divided into two factions, one that believes the air-conditioner or exercising in a cooler environment really nullifies all the hard work they did or are about to do and the other, who believe that the air-conditioner has a positive impact on the quality of their workout.

For records, I belong to the latter faction.

It’s about time to clear the air around the use of air-conditioners in the gym:

Myth: More sweating = More calories burnt

Truth: Caloric burn is a function of intensity and duration of the exercise ONLY, and has nothing to do with how much sweat you’ve produced in the process. The truth is that when the air-conditioner is on sweating is minimized as the cold dry air works to quickly evaporates the sweat, enabling you to exercise for a longer time without feeling exhausted or dehydrated. As a result of long duration, you will burn more calories.

I think most people equate gym with sauna. When you sweat in a sauna, you may experience a mild drop in weight which is nothing but water-loss from perspiration, most of which will be gained back as soon as you consume fluids. However, exercising in the gym with a sauna-like environment is not a great idea.

Myth: If you are not sweating hard, you aren’t working hard enough!

Truth: People differ and so do their bodies reaction to strain, exercise, and temperature. Sweating is simply the body’s natural mechanism of regulating its temperature. Some people sweat much more than others, while some may sweat very little even after a strenuous or long workout session. Sweating by no means is a measure of how productive your workout session has been. It’s smarter to rely on a heart rate or calorie burn monitor than on the amount of sweat produced.

Myth: We must put an effort to produce as much sweat as possible

Truth: Well, the sweat is real, but the way it has been created may not be! If you insist on keeping the air-conditioner off to feel hot enough during exercise to produce a satisfactory amount of sweat, you’re just creating artificial sweat. You will end up dehydrated, exhausted, ripped of essential salts and minerals and will be left with little energy.

Myth: If we sweat more, it’s ok to do minimal cardio and strength training

Truth: You will be able to achieve your fitness goals by training hard and following a calculated calorie deficit. You can do longer periods of cardio and strength training or can intensify the intensity without being fatigued and exhausted. Sweating less and doing a longer workout is way better than sweating a lot but doing a short workout.

Myth: Air-conditioner is only for cooling

Truth: Warm and humid air is the breeding ground for mold, virus, bacteria and mildew growth. In humid climate an air conditioner in the gym regulates humidity by condensing hot, moist air out of the room, making the room more comfortable and healthy. For this one needs to set the air-conditioner on a “dry” mode so that it reduces humidity without overcooling the room. Air filters in air conditioners also help in remove dust particles, pollen, pet fur, mites, and bacteria in the air leading to a healthier environment.

Myth: The gym is filled with healthy people and healthy air (thanks to the room-freshener)

Truth: Intense workout, accelerates our heart rate, which results in faster breathing. This quickened breathing leads us to exhale more carbon dioxide than normal, which can decrease the amount of oxygenated air available to inhale. Gyms are usually filled with people exhaling a high volume of carbon dioxide, lowering the amount of oxygen available for breathing. Humid air with high carbon dioxide can lead to irritation of the eye, nose throat, and lung, sneezing, and coughing, skin rashes, infections and headaches among others.

So, the next time you step into the gym, make sure its not humid enough to rip you off energy forcing you to exercise at sub-optimal levels.

One comment

  1. Appreciate the scientifically drawn insights that bust the ‘Sweat equity’ myths held dear by majority of Gym crowd. Caloric burn is a function of workout intensity and duration. And, be combined with effective exhaust systems as most Gyms smell horrific to say the least!


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