In terms of cardiovascular fitness, running is one of the best forms of exercise you can do. It strengthens your heart and lungs and increases the capillaries and red blood cells in your body. It also improves your muscles’ ability to use oxygen. The question is how much good does it do you and is it even safe to run in polluted cities?
Does it actually do more harm than good?
It’s important for runners to be aware of how air quality can affect their health and what they can do to minimise the impact of pollution.
How does air pollution affect runners?
A recent study found was conducted into the link between pollution, exercise and risk of cardiovascular diseases. The study concluded that individuals living in areas with low or moderate levels of air pollution who reduced their physical activity levels increased their risk of getting cardiovascular disease. This shows that in areas such as these the advantages of exercising outweigh the potential dangers of air pollution. In areas of high pollution however an increase in physical activity may adversely affect cardiovascular health. The intensity of your exercise is also an important factor. Low-intensity exercise like walking is less dangerous than high-intensity exercise like running. When you run, you inhale a lot more air than when you’re resting. As you´re inhaling deeper these particles enter deeper into your lungs. For that reason runners should be more mindful about when and where they run to reduce their exposure to harmful airborne pollutants..
Is air pollution worse in summer than winter?
It may feel like summer is worse due to the stifling heat but cold air is also a problem. Air temperature affects air quality which in turn affects movement of pollution in the air. During periods of cold weather carbon monoxide pollutants can increase due to things like wood burning. In the winter, these pollutants can get trapped under a layer of warm air which acts like a lid. During warmer periods such as summer, stagnant air during heat waves can increase the amount of ozone which particulates pollution. Some areas susceptible to droughts may be more at risk of forest fires which further degrade air quality.
How can you avoid pollution on a run?
You don`t need to stop running outside. Use the following tips to avoid running when pollution is at its highest: Check your local conditions. Most major weather stations will include air quality measures and warnings with their usual forecast, so listen to them and avoid running outside when the air quality is poor. Pollution is higher when more vehicles are on the road. If you can, try running earlier in the morning or later in the evening after peak hours. This is even more important if you live in busier, urban areas. Choose your route carefully. Avoid running in industrial areas or city centres where air pollutants are likely to be higher. It is safe to run in polluted cities but park paths and wooded trails are always the best choice for low-pollution running. Run in the rain. Rain can help to mitigate pollution, so try and time your run for when it’s wet outside. Just be safe and mind your footing.