Air Pollution: Do the Benefits of Exercise Outweigh the Risks of Exercising Outdoors?

Check out this expert advice on exercising outdoors.

Medically reviewed in February 2022

As the population grows in and around cities, unfortunately, so does air pollution. A new study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that exercise in urban areas increases exposure to pollutants in the air, especially for older people with a history of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The study conducted, by Zorana J. Anderson, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Copenhagen, examined more than 50,000 elderly people living in two urban areas in Denmark. It raised the question of whether the benefits of exercise are worth the risk of exercising outdoors in areas known to have poor air quality.

Fortunately, the answer is yes.

Decrease Exposure
Andersen said that based on their findings, and as well as other studies, that it’s reasonable to advise older patients with asthma or COPD to follow recommended physical activity recommendations. But she also recommended that older people lower their exposure to air pollution by doing physical activities in green areas, such as parks or on smaller roads, away from streets with heavy traffic.

You can also check local air quality reports, which are often published online or on your local news channel. Walking, hiking or running on grass and nature trails will not only help to improve the quality of the air you breathe, but provide a more cushioned surface to absorb the pounding forces on your feet, ankles, knees and hips, too.

Get more expert advice on easy-to-implement exercise routines from Dean Ornish.

This content was originally published on Ornish Living.

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