Exercise Outside to Help Protect Yourself Against Air Pollution? New Study Says Yes

If you live in a city, chances are you worry about air pollution, at least some of the time. And it may even influence your decision to exercise outside. But don’t let it, says experts. Turns out the benefits of outdoor exercising far outweighs the pollution risks. 

That’s the finding of a recent study reported on in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which studied more than 52,000 people over 13 years.

According to TIME Magazine, the researchers noted “those who were more active were less likely to die during the study than those who were more sedentary, regardless of the pollutant levels where they lived.”

The researchers looked at a number of criteria including leisure activity like gardening, walking or biking (like to work), or playing sports. The physical activity was measured against the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) near their homes. NO2, which has been linked to respiratory issues, is released when cars burn fuel.

“Previous studies found that walking along a busy London street, for example, caused a drop in lung function and that cycling or running near high traffic roadways also compromised people’s respiratory functions slightly,” reports TIME.

But in the recent study, people who participated in sports “showed a 22% lower risk of dying from any cause during the 13-year followup, while those who cycled regularly showed a 17% lower risk and people who spent time gardening showed a 16% lower risk compared to those who didn’t do either of those activities — and regardless of the pollution levels where they lived.”

“We found an even more positive message around physical activity than we even hoped for,” says the study’s lead author Zorana Andersen from the center for epidemiology and screening at the University of Copenhagen. “Physiologically it’s plausible that you inhale more particles [of pollution] when you exercise in polluted areas, and we thought maybe the accumulated lifetime effect of this would reduce the benefit of exercise. But we don’t see that.”

So in other words, physical activity trumps poor air quality. And, let’s face it, even if you’re skipping time outdoors, you’re still being exposed to the polluted air, so you might as well make the best of it.

 Image: Fit Approach

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