Air pollution is nearly unavoidable because of the diverse range of pollutants and allergens that exist both outdoors and indoors. But excessive exposure to airborne pollutants can cause health risks that may be severe and long-term. You are particularly at risk of increased exposure to air pollution when exercising because, as compared to being in an inactive or relaxed state, you tend to inhale more frequently and breathe air more deeply into the lungs.
You are also more likely to breathe deeply through the mouth while exercising. The implication of this is that the air bypasses the nasal passages where airborne pollutants are typically filtered.
For perspective, a person takes an average of 15 breaths per minute when engaging in regular activities. But when exercising, a person can breathe up to 100 breaths a minute. The more you breathe in, the more you pull pollutants and allergens into your system. If you are in a highly polluted area, you may even breathe up to four times more pollution into your system. If you are especially vulnerable to air pollution, the effects of exercise such as stress and dehydration may aggravate your condition.
Furthermore, studies have shown that air pollution can significantly reduce a person’s performance level and affect one’s willingness to engage in outdoor activities. This is an indirect risk impact of air pollution on health, as aerobic and cardio exercise are crucial to a person’s overall wellness.
The harmful effects of air pollution on human health are undeniable. According to the World Health Organization, nine of 10 people breathe polluted air, which contributes to seven million deaths annually. A third of deaths attributed to lung cancer, stroke, and heart diseases are caused by air pollution.
The Types of Air Pollutants
There are two main types of air pollution: ambient or outdoor pollution, and indoor pollution.
Outdoors, there are different types of air pollutants and allergens you may be exposed to depending on the surroundings and climate. In highly urbanized areas such as cities, you will likely be exposed to motor vehicle traffic, which can release particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide into the air.
There is also ozone at ground level due to the way sunlight reacts to pollutants that result from vehicle emissions. Construction sites and power plants can also release smoke and fine particles into the air, which can clog up the lungs and cause health problems. Meanwhile, in residential or suburban areas, you may be exposed to allergens like pollen and dust.
If you typically exercise outdoors, note that weather and climate can also impact air pollution levels. Sunlight may react with air pollutants like ozone and nitrogen oxide, which can then trigger symptoms of asthma or cause breathing to be shallow when exercising. Cold, hazy days may trap pollutants like smoke, carbon monoxide, and fine particles in the lower atmosphere, making them more likely to be breathed in. But outdoor air after a rainy day is much cleaner as the water droplets pull pollutants out of the air. Wind can also influence the flow of air pollutants as it can agitate and push particles away from the source.
You might be more inclined to exercise indoors instead because there are typically fewer air pollutants, depending on your home habits. However, gas stoves, appliances, cleaning products, and personal care products can release harmful gases that, when accumulated, can cause health problems. Pet dander, dust mites, and mold spores are common allergens that are naturally occurring in the home. Even pests like mice and cockroaches can shed allergens.
With polluted air both indoor and out, it might seem like there’s no win here. So, what can you do to exercise safely?
3 Tips for Exercising Without Compromising Your Health
The abundance of air pollutants may seem concerning, but not exercising at all will have a greater negative impact on your health. While exposure to some level of air pollution is inevitable, here are three simple tips to reduce how much of it you breathe into your system:
1. Exercise Indoors
The easiest way to minimize exposure to air pollution while exercising is to simply consider working out indoors instead, especially on days when outdoor air quality is poor. There is an at-home exercise program or tutorial for just about every type of workout available online.
To further protect yourself and improve air quality indoors, use a trusted air purifier to trap indoor air pollutants and neutralize airborne pathogens. The Sans air purifier delivers three-stage air purification, including a medical-grade HEPA 13 filter, pre-filter, and activated carbon filter. Plus, it has an interior UV-C sterilization to lengthen the lifespan of the filters and prevent germs and bacteria from growing on them.
2. Avoid Highly Polluted Outdoor Spaces
If you choose to work out outdoors, try to exercise in less polluted areas. Pollution tends to be highest within 400 meters of a road, so try to avoid busy, high-traffic passageways. Maximize green spaces, like parks, if they’re available to you.
3. Plan Your Workout Schedule
If you live in the city, avoid exercising during rush hour as the high volume of vehicular traffic increases air pollution. Ideally, work out in the early morning or late evening when traffic is lighter. Check your local weather forecast and air quality index to gauge the conditions that await you outside.There is no perfect solution. Rather, it’s about making smarter choices that help make the environment around you cleaner and safer to breathe. An easy way to protect yourself from air pollution and help improve the quality of air indoors is to use an air purifier. Check out the Sans air purifier today.