Air Pollution no Excuse for Not Exercising says Research

Air Pollution no Excuse for Not Exercising says Research

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New research report out of Denmark says that exercise can outweigh harmful effects of air pollution.

Are the respirable fine dust levels at an all-year high today in your city? According to a new research report from Denmark this is no excuse for going on a run outdoors. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have found that the beneficial effects of exercise are more important for our health than the negative effects of air pollution, in relation to the risk of premature mortality. 

“Even for those living in the most polluted areas of Copenhagen, it is healthier to go for a run, a walk or to cycle to work than it is to stay inactive,” says Associate Professor Zorana Jovanovic Andersen from the Centre for Epidemiology and Screening at the University of Copenhagen.

The study shows that despite the adverse effects of air pollution on health, air pollution should be not perceived as a barrier to exercise in urban areas.  It is well established that physical activity increases human life-spans. Air pollution is though increasing the risk of premature mortality. Physical activity amplifies respiratory intake and accumulation of air pollutants in our lungs, which /4/increase the harmful effects of air pollution during exercise.

“Air pollution is often perceived as a barrier to exercise in urban areas. In the face of an increasing health burden due to rising physical inactivity and obesity in modern societies, our findings provide support for efforts in promoting exercise, even in urban areas with high pollution,” says Associate Professor Zorana Jovanovic Andersen.

“However, we would still advise people to exercise and cycle in green areas, parks, woods, with low air pollution and away from busy roads, when possible,” she adds. The researchers also caution that the results of the study are specific to Denmark and other areas in the world where pollution is much higher the conclusion could be different. Some cities in China have smog levels that are likely reversing the findings of this study.

This study includes 52,061 subjects, aged 50-65 years, from the two main cities Aarhus and Copenhagen, who participated in the cohort study Diet, Cancer and Health. From 1993-97, they reported on their physical leisure activities, including sports, cycling to/from work and in their leisure time, gardening and walking. The researchers then estimated air pollution levels from traffic at their residential addresses. 

The research results have been published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.


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