Posted by: wortix | May 14, 2009

Air pollution and exercise: Is outdoor exercise risky?

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from Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.

Aerobic activity is one of the keys to a healthy lifestyle. Still, you may experience negative health effects if you regularly exercise in areas with air pollution — especially if you have asthma or another chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes.

During aerobic activity — even low-intensity activity — you may breathe as much as 10 times more air than you do when at rest. You’re also likely to draw air more deeply into your lungs and breathe mostly through your mouth, bypassing your filtering nasal passages. These factors work together to increase your contact with pollutants, making air pollution and exercise a potentially risky combination.

Year-round exposure to air pollution or particulate matter — a mix of tiny specks of soot, dust and aerosols suspended in the air — has been linked to:

  • Significant damage to the small airways of the lungs
  • An increased risk of heart attacks and strokes in older women
  • An increased risk of death from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease

Despite the potential health risks, don’t use air pollution as a reason to skip exercise if you’re otherwise healthy. To limit the effects of air pollution and exercise:

  • Time your workouts carefully. Check local air pollution alerts and plan your outdoor workouts accordingly. Avoid outdoor physical activity when pollution levels are highest — in the midday or afternoon in many areas.
  • Avoid congested streets. Pollution levels are likely to be highest within 50 feet (15 meters) of the road.
  • Exercise indoors. Vary your routine with occasional indoor activities. Take a fitness class, check out a local gym or run laps on an indoor track.

If you have a chronic condition, share any concerns you may have about outdoor exercise with your doctor.

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