Exercising In Poor Air Quality – Is It Safe?

Exercising In Poor Air Quality - Is It Safe?
Credit: wexnermedical

Exercising is a necessity to stay healthy in today’s world. Moderate physical activity is the first step to staying fit. But the question is, is it safe to exercise outdoors rather than inside? We know there has been a massive fire recently in the forest of California, and at the beginning of 2020, an Australian bushfire occurred. Such fires and other air pollutants make the air we breathe hazardous for our lungs. Research has been going on, on whether an individual should exercise outdoors or indoors, especially in places with bad air quality.

According to IQAir, an agency for monitoring air quality around the world, three US cities are on the list of the worst cities in the world for air quality. Portland, Seattle, and Denver are among the top 10. AirNow is a government-managed air quality organization. This organization has listed many other cities with bad and unhealthy air quality.

The Air We Breathe

The air quality becomes hazardous due to a lot of air pollutants as per the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The NIEHS reports that vehicle emissions, fuel oil, natural gas, byproducts of manufacturing, and power generation all contribute to air pollutants.

Furthermore, fumes from chemical production, smoke from wildfires, chemicals from volcanic eruptions are also a source of air pollutants. Even gasses emitted from decomposing organic matter in soils like methane contribute to air pollutants.

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As per NIEHS, the air contains ultra-fine particulate matter, including nitrogen-oxides, sulfur-oxides, carbon-monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and ground-level oxygen. According to Raymond Casciari, a pulmonologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, this fine-particulate matter can enter the blood.

Moreover, ultra-fine particulate matter is 30 times thinner than human hair, can enter the lungs quickly, and reach alveoli. Alveoli are air-sacs through which oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange occur between blood and air. Fine-particulate matter, because of its minute size, can enter blood by crossing the barrier between alveoli and surrounding blood vessels.

The Many Effects Of Poor Air On Health

Initially, breathing bad-air quality will cause coughing, breathing-difficulties, stinging eyes, runny nose, chest pain, wheezing, and shortness of breath. But over time, serious health issues develop. According to NIEHS, increased risk of lung disease, including asthma, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can occur.

Furthermore, chronic bronchitis, impaired blood vessel function, increased risk of stroke, and hypertensive disorders can also occur. Prolonged exposure to air pollutants increases your risk of developing cancer, more specifically lung and breast cancers. 

People must take care of themselves. They must focus on the body’s needs. Breathing in poor air-quality can be hazardous. If any pulmonary issues appear, you must consult your doctor immediately. You must stop working out or exercising outdoors until you get better.

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More Indoor Action Than Outdoors?

When you work out, you breathe deeply. When exercising in unhealthy-air, the pollutants can enter deeper into your lungs. Moreover, during exercise, you inspire and expire at a faster rate. Resulting in more damage, as per the expert, Reynold Panettieri, tells Health. Reynold, MD, is the director of the Institute for Translational Medicine and Science at Rutgers University. 

According to some other doctors, you must avoid exercising in poor-air quality.

You can exercise inside your home rather than outside. But when you do exercise indoors, you need to consider the ventilation of your home. A tightly closed environment can filter large particles. Jonathan Parsons, MD, is a pulmonologist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Jonathan tells Health that exercising inside lowers the risk of pulmonary damage remarkably.

However, if you are a heavy smoker, you may have pulmonary damage symptoms. Moreover, you must avoid frying foods and burning candles and try to keep a clean environment inside. Furthermore, an air purifier can be used in the exercising-room to remove any particulate that may have entered into your room.

Adeena Tariq Lari
The author is a graduate of dental surgery from the Dow University Health Sciences, Karachi. She has an academic background in content writing as well as English literature, giving her an edge in the field. Adeena is always curious about physical and mental health. She is always passionate about research and delivering high-quality reliable content to users.