New research suggests that exercising in highly polluted urban areas has few to no health benefits. A group of British researchers analyzed the health benefits of walking for people aged 60 or older and compared the benefits of exercising on traffic-laden streets with the benefits of exercising in a public park.
The study revealed that people who would rather do their daily walk in parks have better health outcomes than those walking along busy streets.
The study appeared Tuesday in the journal The Lancet.
The study also shows that even short-term exposure to air pollution in urban areas lowers the health benefits of exercising during that time.
Lead author Dr. Fan Chung explained that:
- When you exercise, your blood vessels become wider and airways open up for a few days
- When this happens in an area with high pollution, any health benefit is offset by the health risks.
- “When you exercise in polluted areas, you breathe in more, and you get more of the particles and gases getting to your lungs,” Dr. Chung also said.
His team analyzed the effects of air pollution on older people diagnosed with lung and heart disease. Researchers asked 119 people over the age of 60 to take part in the trial. Some of them were healthy while others had been diagnosed with lung disease, aka COPD, or heart disease.
Study participants agreed to take regular walks for two hours on a major street in London while others did the same thing but in a local park. On that street, only buses and taxis have access to, which are powered by diesel.
London is one of the world’s cities with the highest air pollution.
Participants who walked in the park experienced reduced pain and stiffness in their arteries and higher lung capacity. Participants who walked along the highly polluted street had minor improvements in their lung capacity and arteries.
Image Source: Wikimedia