Air Clean Up

  • Should You Run in Smog?

Should You Run in Smog?

Dec 13 2017 Read 1032 Times

Doctors and health experts are constantly advising their patients and clients to engage in regular exercise in order to maintain a fit and healthy body. However, the beneficial effects of running or other forms of exertion can quickly be negated if the air you breathe in is contaminated.

That was certainly the case last month, when the prestigious Delhi marathon took place amid pollution levels that were eight times greater than the threshold deemed safe by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Despite the poor conditions, more than 30,000 competitors still took part in the race.

Running a health risk

Doctors have long warned that running when pollution levels are high can be worse for your health than doing no exercise at all. In particular, running, jogging, cycling or any other exercise which increases respiration can exacerbate pre-existing lung conditions, increase the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes and cause asthma attacks.

When engaging in any strenuous physical activity, the heart race increases and the lungs work overtime, sucking more air into the body than normal. If that air is filled with harmful contaminants such as particulate matter, nitrous oxides (NOx) and heavy metals such as mercury, it can be disastrous for the body’s well-being.

Delhi doctors ignored on marathon

With those fears in mind, the Indian Medical Association had petitioned the city’s High Court to delay the marathon until pollution levels had abated. However, the authorities maintained that they had taken all available precautions, such as spraying the route with salty water, and that the race would go ahead.

Despite those precautions and a period of drizzle on the morning of the event, pollution levels of the most dangerous kinds of contaminants still surpassed 200, which is the level at which the US Embassy recommends that nobody undertake outdoor exercise, and which is eight times higher than the level deemed safe by the WHO.

“My eyes are burning, my throat is dry. I have a running nose,” said Rohit Mohan, a 30-year-old participant from Bangalore who was one of the few to sport a mask during the event. “It’s been terrible since I landed here yesterday.”

Safety begins at home

While pollution levels in Indian cities such as Delhi are generally far higher than in the UK, British residents should still exercise caution when planning their exercise routes. In particular, Londoners are exposed to harmful toxins on a daily basis, with NOx and PM especially bad in the city.

Fortunately, there are now a number of apps and other tools available to city dwellers which can help to build a hyper-local map of air pollution in London, allowing people to plan a route which avoids pollution hotspots when they go jogging.

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