Just recently, the American Lung Association published its report on the latest measurements of soot particles and ozone in the air for almost 1,000 countries and cities in the United States.
The results come as no surprise, especially for measurements in major cities like Los Angeles. In fact, the latter has been found to be one of the most polluted in the U.S., and not too far behind are the highly urbanized cities of Houston, Washington, New York, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. On the other hand, cities in North and South Dakota, as well as Palm Beach, Fla., are considered cleanest as of the moment.
Whether you live in a polluted city or not, you’ve surely had to make do with working out along busy polluted roads at some point in your life. Whether you’re a serious athlete or a recreational cyclist or runner, it’s but prudent to educate yourself if working out in polluted areas causes damage to your lungs and your health overall.
Tips for Lessening Damage When Working Out in Pollution
Your body may have a built-in mechanism to protect itself from the harmful effects of air pollution, but it’s prudent to still take steps to lessen said damage. Opt to consider the tips below.
Know When to Exercise
As you probably already know, the quality of air is most compromised when temperatures are at its hottest. During high temperatures, the sunlight as well as the heat essentially charge up the air along with all the chemical compounds that are present in the atmosphere. This concoction then combines with the nitrogen oxide naturally existing in the air, resulting in smog which is a harmful combination of smoke, soot, and chemical fumes. Since this is the case, it would then be prudent to time your workouts during the cooler mornings or during early evenings.
Avoid Working Out Along Roads
Steer clear of roads, particularly busy streets, as these areas tend to have higher concentration of airborne pollutants. Simply choosing to run, walk, or cycle a few meters from the road can do wonders. Of course, altogether avoiding busy roads is by far the most ideal if you truly want to minimize your exposure to airborne pollutants.
Educate Yourself as to Your Community’s Air Pollution Levels
Prior to planning your major run or bike sessions, opt to check airnow.gov first. Over at the site are the latest EPA air-quality forecasts for all the major cities in the U.S. This way, you can schedule your workouts during the least polluted hours of the day.
Don a Mask
Wearing a filtration mask is a smart move as well. Athletes who wear filtration masks during their workouts in polluted urban areas tend to have fewer incidences of “pollution nausea” as compared to those who don’t wear masks.
Take Antioxidants Regularly
Though your body produces its own antioxidants, the latter may not be enough to combat the daily stress that your body is subjected to due to exposure to pollutants. To help your body fight against harmful free radicals, opt to boost your intake of antioxidant-rich fruits like cherries, pomegranates and blueberries, as well as vegetables like kale.
continue reading Ben Greenfield: Exercise and Air Pollution.