Air quality and exercising outdoors

This week sees the launch of a new air quality campaign, supported by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, to inform Londoners of the current pollution problem facing the city. The campaign includes a series of hard hitting posters on the London Underground with pictures of everyday things and the likely air pollution contaminating them, that we cannot see.

What is air pollution?

Air pollution is particles and dust in the air created from burning fossil fuels, factory emissions and vehicle exhaust emissions.

What problem does it cause?

Air pollution is linked to long-term lung conditions however people may also feel the temporary short-term effects of feeling tighter in the chest, itchy eyes and headaches.

Is it safe to exercise outdoors?

The research  suggests the benefits of exercise outweigh the risks of exposure to pollution, however we cannot ignore the fact air pollution can have consequences for long-term health.

Below are some tips on how we might be able to limit our exposure to air pollution

  1. As much as possible, run or cycle away from heavy traffic, in quieter spaces or use quieter roads with less traffic. Narrow roads with tall buildings can sometimes be worse, as pollution can get trapped in pockets and builds up. It is worth noting that rural areas can also experience a type of air pollution referred to as ground level ozone.
  1. Choose your time, pollution levels are higher in the afternoon due to the warming effects of the sun on pollution particles and of course, during rush hour with more vehicles on the roads. You might prefer to run first thing as this is usually when pollution levels are lowest. Still air can also increase the concentration of pollutants.
  1. Check pollution levels, the met office publishes air pollution levels on the DEFRA UK air website. So, you might be able to check the pollution levels for your area at certain times. The ‘Plume’ app can give Londoners hourly updates on overall levels.
  1. You can wear a mask however, there is no conclusive evidence that wearing a mask makes a significant difference but it’s personal preference and certainly can be worth a try if you feel the effects of pollution or are worried about the levels in your area.
  2. Take it easy on days with higher pollution levels. On hot balmy days the pollution levels will certainly be higher so perhaps consider a shorter and less intense session.

For more information on the latest air quality campaign take a look at the campaign website.











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