Reprinted from the
US National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health
When you are physically active, you breathe more often and take more air into your lungs than when you are inactive. If the air quality is poor, you may breathe in a larger amount of harmful pollutants.
In addition, while exercising, you are more likely to breathe through your mouth rather than your nose. Unlike the nose, the mouth is unable to filter out certain large pollutants in the air and stop them from entering the lungs. Therefore, breathing through the mouth can lead to more pollutants entering the airways. During exercise, smaller inhaled particles can get deeper into the lungs.
The more pollutants that you breathe into your lungs, the more likely you are to experience their negative health effects.
Here are our top ten tips for healthy outdoor exercise:
1. Consider your location and route
When exercising in a town or city, make use of parks, public spaces and trails with low emission zones as much as possible. A growing amount of research is showing that greenspaces contribute to our health and wellbeing.
2. Keep a healthy distance from the road
If you are cycling, jogging or walking outdoors, it is best to avoid doing this close to roads – particularly busy ones – if possible. Studies have shown that air pollution levels are higher on busier roads, but that the amount of pollution drops in line with how far away you are from a road. For example, you will be exposed to lower levels of air pollution just 1–2 m away from the main flow of traffic. In addition, you may want to consider using a parallel road that is quieter and safer.
3. Move around vehicles
When cycling, jogging or walking behind cars, scooters, motorcycles, lorries and other vehicles, you will breathe in very high levels of pollutants that can be harmful to your lungs. If it is safe to do so, move around these vehicles to try to reduce your exposure and keep your distance.
4. Avoid busy roads with high buildings
Air pollution tends to get trapped within roads with tall buildings on either side, so this type of road usually has poor air quality and should be avoided for exercise. Traffic lights are another pollution hotspot to avoid, as when vehicles move away from traffic lights they give off more emissions.
5. Check the air quality index of the day
Actual air pollution levels depend on the type of pollutant, the location and local weather. Many government agencies have monitoring stations that continuously measure and report levels of different air pollutants. Some also give forecasts, which you could use to decide when would be better to do your outdoor exercise. Try to find a service that is specific for your location.
6. Check the weather forecast
Air pollution tends to be at its highest on hot, sunny days, while the air tends to be cleaner after rainy or windy weather. If you have a pollen allergy, you may have more issues on days where pollen levels are high as pollen can interact with pollution. Check your local air quality forecast for more information.
7. Avoid exercising during rush hours
Try to avoid being physically active outdoors during rush hour in busy traffic areas or other times when lots of cars will be on the roads. Choose an alternative, quieter route or another time to be active.
8. Choose healthy travel options
Driving a car to get around contributes to the air pollution problem. Why not consider using public transport, or ‘taking the active option’ and walking or cycling? These options will help you to reach your daily physical activity goals, while contributing to a cleaner environment.
9. Avoid exposure to indoor air pollution and second-hand smoke
If you exercise at a gym, at home or in another indoor space, you could come into contact with indoor air pollution and/or second-hand smoke, so it is worth considering potential pollutants in this environment and how you can protect yourself from them. Vacuuming, and using cleaning products and air fresheners may reduce air quality, so try to avoid exercise immediately after cleaning.
10. Be active!
Do not be afraid to be active and exercise – environmental and lung health experts agree that the health risks associated with breathing in air pollution while exercising are less significant than those of an inactive lifestyle!
Physical activity covers any type of movement of the muscles in the body which uses up energy. It includes activities you may do as part of your daily routine, like gardening, cleaning or walking to the shops. Exercise is a form of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and aims to improve or maintain physical fitness.
Both gentle and more strenuous physical activity can benefit your health and improve your quality of life. Being active is also important for lung health, both for the general population and people living with long-term lung conditions.
For more information on starting an exercise program to benefit your health, call PHASE IV 310-582-8212 and ask for Shelby or Chelsea, they’ll schedule you for a free health and fitness consultation to be sure that all your exercise efforts are 100% safe and effective toward your goals.