The Feng Shui of Exercise: No Pane, No Gain

By Marilynn Preston

October 15, 2019 5 min read

OK, it's just a theory — like relativity — but I consider it true: The place where you work out makes a difference. The space, the clutter, the number of windows all have an impact.

Stick yourself in a tiny space, with bad air, negative colors, fluorescent lights and bad things happen. Your workout won't be as pleasant or as effective as being in natural light in a well-ventilated space that is open and organized to maximize the flow of energy in your body.

That's what practitioners of feng shui believe, and so do increasing numbers of fitness fans who buy the books, work with experts and continue to connect the healthy lifestyle dots between the space around them and the space inside.

Feng shui — pronounced various ways but let's go with "fung-as-in-hung" and "shway" — is the Chinese study of the natural environment based on principles dating back 4,000 years to the I Ching, still a bestseller.

It's all about yin and yang and the balancing of the five elements (fire, earth, metal, water and wood), which is all people talk about in Santa Fe, where feng shui has the right of way.

So here are some basics I've gathered about the feng shui of exercise, especially useful if you work out at home. It's a subtle thing — "red shorts are empowering" — but so is energy itself.

LIGHTING. Feng shui practitioners are very wired in to the importance of healthy lighting. The fluorescent lights you see in many gyms are actually a drain on your energy. Full-spectrum bulbs and lamps are the way to go, so talk to your health club and see if you can influence their choices. Good luck.

Windows that look outdoors, into nature, are very feng shui. Let your gaze draw strength and steadiness from the trees. Open and understand the fortune cookie that reads "Avoid exercising in a windowless place. No pane, no gain."

AIR AND SOUND. Feng shui followers adore plants. Living plants help clean the air and, in general, make you feel better. So if you're creating a home workout space, include something green that grows and breathes. Talk to it. Let it know you care.

Pay attention to the air quality, too. Strive for good circulation, humidity control and an open window for best ventilation.

I know it's asking a lot to unplug when you work out, to turn off the TV and pull out the earbuds, but it's the feng shui way to a better workout. Listening to music has its place — very motivational! — but focusing inward has its advantages, too.

You can be moving like crazy on the outside — running, swimming, shooting baskets — but inside, if you're tuned into the sound of your own breath, you're in a state of stillness and calm. And from that place — called Flow — Michael Jordan could make 50 free throws in a row.

SPACE. Working out in a cramped and cluttered space makes exercise more difficult, say the feng shui-ers. Look for, or create, workout spaces that give you an open and organized feeling.

For more details on how to do that, read the bestselling "Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. If a piece of clothing doesn't bring you joy, let it go, she says. If your workout doesn't bring you joy, something's wrong.

Give yourself a clean space, done in deep, bright colors. High chrome and dark colors are not ideal for gyms, according to feng shui experts, who also believe that the color of your workout clothes can make a difference.

Want to feel empowered? Dress in red or deep purple. Kings and popes and Zen masters have been doing that for ages.

ATTITUDE. Your workout environment is important, but so is your attitude. If you positively don't agree with any of the feng shui principles I've touched on here, don't sweat it. Keep exercising as usual.

But if you feel aligned with the suggestions, take action. Come to your workout with a positive attitude. Put a leafy potted plant next to your treadmill. Move your yoga mat closer to the window. Reflect on all the chrome you see in modern gyms.


"My view on feng shui: Don't put your bed in front of the door because you can't get in." — Jonas Eriksson.

Marilynn Preston is the author of "Energy Express," America's longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her new Amazon best-seller, "All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being," is available now on Amazon and elsewhere. Visit Creators Publishing at to learn more. For more on personal well-being, visit

Photo credit: RachelScottYoga at Pixabay

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