How Does Pollution Impact Physical Activities

Do you usually wake up in the early morning and do your cardio? And after the cardio or the long run, have you ever experienced any air pollution- related symptoms such as coughing, watery eyes or wheezing. If that happens, then It is certain that the quality of the outdoor air is bad, in another word, the air is polluted.

How Does Pollution Impact Physical Activities

source image: Runner’s World

You may think that it’s impossible because the air in the early morning is always fresh and clean, but you’ re completely wrong. In fact, this only happens when you live in a rural area, so if you live in an urban area, then it’s not gonna happen.

In details, in urban areas, there are a lot of means of transportation, power plants or industrial centers and so on, which can increase the levels of pollutants in the air, causing a real health hazard.

How does the Air Pollution impact physical activities

As a result, it’s quite obvious that pollution is very harmful to your health. Therefore, of course, it is not good for your physical activities at all both indoors and outdoors.

To understand more about the effects of bad air quality on your exercises or physical activities, here is a short list of some health problems it may cause:

  • Damage to airways of the lungs
  • Worsening of existing asthma or other lung conditions
  • Increase risk of asthma development
  • Increase risk of death from cardiovascular disease or lung cancer
  • Aggravate cardiovascular and respiratory illness
  • Add stress to heart and lungs, which must work harder to supply the body with oxygen
  • Damage cells in the respiratory system
  • Increase risk of heart attacks or strokes.

What are the exact factors which make your outdoor workout bad?

Workout

In general, physical activities are very beneficial for your health. However,  everything will be worse if you do not know where and when to do exercise, especially when you are already allergic.

In details, if you live in an urban area and it is an allergy season, like spring, then exercising outdoors in the evening is a very bad idea. Because this is the time when the pollutant reaches the highest level, so it is completely dangerous if you spend a long time for a run or other activities outdoors.

Overall, inhalation of major air pollutants can decrease your lung function as well as exacerbate pollution- related symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath. In addition, for some certain exercises and activities, especially moderate or intense exercises like running or lift training, the demand for oxygen is much higher than others.

In that case, you need to breathe harder and deeper. Thus this can increase the amount of pollution you inhale. Furthermore, the pollution can also travel deeper into your respiratory system and to me, that’s totally terrible.

According to my experiences, if there are not much exhausts or polluted air out there, it’s okay for you to have a run or any other type of exercises outdoors. But remember to do this in the early morning ( about 6 or 7 a. m), so if you can’t wake up early, then don’t.

How about the indoor workout?

While indoor exercise is often a perfect alternative to the outdoor since it can help you limit the exposure to the outdoor pollutants, some indoor conditions can be toxic. Unbelievable huh? Actually, in some circumstances, the air in your home can be much more polluted than the outdoor air. Specifically, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is much higher in gas- heated homes or indoor areas which have poor ventilation.

That’s the reason why I suggest you keep the windows open for a while in the early morning or anytime you realize that the outdoor air is not polluted. This can help you to circulate the indoor air, making it fresher to some extents.

In brief, once you realize that the indoor air quality is relatively bad, especially in the late afternoon or evening, just don’t do any exercises no matter how much you want to.

People who are the most susceptible to severe health problems from the pollution

Although it is obvious that pollution is very harmful to physical activities, both indoors and outdoors, there are certain people who have to care about the pollution more than others. Here are they:

  • Individuals who already have heart diseases – such as congestive heart failure or coronary artery disease
  • Individuals with lung disease such as emphysema, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Outdoor workers
  • Children under the age of 14, whose lungs are still developing
  • Athletes who exercise vigorously outdoors
  • Pregnant women

Ways to limit the effects of the pollution, especially from the air, on your physical activities

It may be true that there are pollutants in your living area. However, it doesn’t mean that there is no way you can work out or have a walk for the entire year. In fact, fortunately, there are some common ways for you to reduce the effects of the pollution on your workout as follows:

  1. Monitor the levels of air pollution:

Some communities have a specialized system for air pollution alerts. Everything you need to do is to contact your local air pollution control agency, a local hospital or simply your doctor for information. Also, local radio or even television stations and newspapers can also report on the daily air quality for you.

This can help you know how high the levels of pollution are. Thus, it will be much easier for you to decide whether to go for a walk or stay at home for the rest of the day. But don’t forget to use the air purifier in your house to make sure you have a good indoor air quality

  1. Time your workouts carefully and do not try to overexert yourself.

To make it clear, if you can, just avoid outdoor physical activities. If you can’t exercise at home, just make sure you reduce the duration and intensity of your exercises. However, once the pollution levels are at the highest, especially in mid-day or afternoon, don’t go out for any outdoor activity no matter what happens. Because working out during the rush hour can completely expose you to even higher amounts of pollution, and this is really bad if you already have allergies.

  • Avoid high-pollution areas. The levels of pollution are likely to be highest within 15 meters ( 50 feet) of a road. Furthermore, urban environment with heavy traffic or outdoor smoking areas has higher pollution levels. If you can, just avoid exercising in these kinds of areas.
  • Exercise indoors. In fact, occasional working indoors is also very useful, and this is how you vary your routine. Although it is less comfortable for you, you don’t have to go anywhere, particularly on poor air quality days. Therefore, if you don’t want to exercise at home, just sign up for a fitness class of some local gym near your house.
  • Keep an air purifier or air conditioner running the whole time you exercise, this can help eliminate the environmental pollutants such as dust, dust mites, or pollen in the indoor air.

Last but not least, keep in mind that, if you have allergies, asthma, diabetes or other relative conditions, it is highly recommended for you to check with your doctor about when it is safe for you to exercise.

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