Exercising outdoors definitely has its perks! Fresh air and Vitamin D from the sun can be refreshing after a day spent working inside. However, it’s important to consider how fresh that air really is…
Are you breathing in air pollution during your run?
Since air quality can vary from day to day and between regions, here are some FAQs to make sure your outside time is helping and not hurting your fitness.
Air quality is important for everyone to consider when exercising outside, but there are some people that may be more vulnerable than others. People with diabetes, and heart or lung conditions, such as asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) can be more seriously affected by air pollutants. This is also true for older people, children and babies.
Air pollution comes from a variety of sources and can occur both outdoors and indoors.
Outdoor air pollution is made up of gases and particles in the air. These can occur naturally, such as blowing dust, pollen and burning wood, or they can be produced by vehicle emissions, and industrial and agricultural processes.
Indoor air quality is also affected by particles and gases in the air from things like cigarette smoke, cleaning products and open fires.
When you are exercising, you are breathing more deeply in order to supply your blood and muscles with more oxygen. This means that you are not only taking in more air and getting it deeper into your lungs, but you are also taking in more of any pollutants in the air.
In addition, when you exercise, you are more likely to be breathing through your mouth. Your nose is designed to work as a filter when you breathe, removing irritating particles and pollutants. Your mouth does not work that way, which means your body isn’t able to filter out those pollutants before they reach your lungs.
Yes, some areas are more exposed to air pollution than others. People living in large cities are going to see more issues with air quality due primarily to the increased amount of motor vehicle traffic. Areas with a lot of tall buildings can also see issues with air quality because the pollutants get trapped and can’t dissipate into the air as easily.
Yes, air quality levels can vary based on the weather, the seasons, and even the time of day.
Sunny, hot days tend to have higher instances of air pollution. On the other hand, you will likely find better air quality on rainy or windy days. Air pollution also tends to be at its highest during the afternoon when the daily temperatures reach their peak.
Be sure to keep your seasonal allergies in mind. Pollen from trees and flowers will change the air quality and may affect some people more drastically than others.
Poor air quality can have negative effects on everyone and exposure should always be limited when possible. If you have a lung condition, such as asthma or COPD, you may experience noticeable flare-ups of your symptoms. This can include asthma attacks, difficulty breathing, wheezing and coughing.
Even if you have healthy lungs, prolonged exposure to air pollution can cause a condition to develop over time. This can be a problem for people who are training for long marathon runs. You may also experience irritation of the eyes, nose and throat from just short periods of exposure.
There are many steps that you can take to decrease your exposure to potentially harmful air pollution, all it takes is a little planning.
Time your workouts carefully – Avoid exercising outdoors during rush hour if you are in an urban environment. This is when motor vehicle emissions are at their highest. Also, try to avoid working out during peak temperature times of the day.
Choose a healthy travel option – Not only should you think about avoiding air pollution when you exercise, but also think about what you can do to decrease the amount of pollutants in the air. Use public transportation, ride a bike, or use your legs and walk to your destination. All of these options will decrease vehicle emissions and help protect air quality.
Monitor air quality levels – You can check your local air quality levels at the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website for up-to date pollution and allergen information.
Make sure you know what you’re looking at to best inform yourself. The Air Quality Index works on a scale from 0-500 with the following descriptions:
0-50: Green – Good
51-100: Yellow – Moderate
101-150: Orange – Unhealthy for sensitive individuals
151-200: Red – Unhealthy
201-300: Purple – Very Unhealthy
301-500: Maroon – Hazardous
You can use this information to decide if it’s a good day or time for you to exercise outdoors based on your circumstances.
Exercise Indoors – If air quality is poor due to location or environmental causes, or if a lung condition won’t allow you to work out outdoors, that doesn’t have to stop you. You can get a great full body workout indoors on an elliptical from the comfort of your own home. Ellipticals can work well for large homes or even small apartments. Check out our best buy models to find the right fit for you.
Avoid indoor air pollution and second-hand smoke – You should be taking air pollutants into consideration even when you’re indoors. If you are going to a gym that is in a public space, be aware of second-hand smoke and any chemical cleaners that are sprayed throughout the facility. Having the ability to work out from home can eliminate a lot of these irritants.
Avoid high pollution areas – Opt to exercise in green spaces, like parks, whenever possible. This is an easy way to avoid a lot of the motor vehicle emissions that you will encounter on the road. If you do have to use the roads to get in your cardio, choose the road less traveled to avoid traffic as much as possible.
Now that you have the information you need and the tips to properly arm yourself, there is nothing stopping you from getting a safe and effective outdoor workout.
Avoid air quality issues by exercising in the safety of your own home.
Check out some of our top rated home ellipticals here.