New Research on Air Pollution & Exercise

One of the most common questions we get asked by the public is, how bad does the air pollution have to get before you’re doing more harm than good to your health with exercise. One study found that after about 45 minutes of vigorous exercise in “orange” level air pollution, the harm began to outweigh the benefits.

Al Hartmann | Tribune File Photo

A new study gives further information. Blood pressure is a barometer of overall health, and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and blood vessel disorders. Researchers found that long term exercise in air pollution up to the level of PM2.5 of 34.4 ug/m3 (just below the threshold for orange designation), was still beneficial in reducing blood pressure. Nonetheless, they also found that air pollution can have a stronger effect in raising blood pressure, than exercise has in reducing it.

Many of us have felt that exercising in air pollution in the orange range or higher was probably counterproductive. This doesn’t answer that question, but it does suggest that exercise in air pollution in the yellow range is still beneficial.

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