If you thought that daily exercise would be good for your health, think again: if you work out in an area infected by air pollution, you may lose all of your hard work’s benefits.
Nobody questions the value behind a good bout of exercise. The evidence in favor of all its benefits, both for the body and the mind, is scientifically backed, not the mention the boost it gives to our self image when we see results in the mirror, or when we feel elated after a good work out. Just as little as thirty minutes of daily intense-to-moderate exercise is enough to shed some weight and stay healthy, ranging from aerobic practices to strength training. It is easy to do and all that we require to get started is the will to begin and the discipline to continue. It is one of those things in life that may require some effort at first, but the long-term benefits will more than compensate for the physical effort.
But all is not as simple as it seems in this contemporary world. Air pollution has become one of the most pervasive and important health hazards of our time, bringing with it all kinds of issues that affect everyone. From the children to the elderly, from pregnant women to those struggling during their work hours, air pollution is a major player in the growing list of problems we have to deal with. Common sense would tell us that staying fit through exercise and healthy eating habits would be good enough to keep such troubles away, but a couple of studies have shown that such intuition is no longer valid. Or at least it isn’t in highly polluted areas.
Something as simple as running can keep dementia at bay, both in the elderly and the young who want to avoid these clouds of the mind during their latter years of life. However, it has been found that any benefits obtained from exercise disappear as quickly as they come if physical activity is done in areas with even moderate levels of air pollution. This is a an important issue, as it is a frontal attack to one of our surest means to keep ourselves healthy: good, simple, exercise. How could we, then, balance the benefits of it with the downsides of breathing all of the air pollution in our cities? It’s as if the environment itself wanted to play against us.
To understand the negative effects of exercising while breathing PM 2.5 particles and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), among other contaminants, let’s first look at what happens to our brain when we exercise. It has been found that people who lead a physically active lifestyle have more gray matter and healthier white matter than those who remain sedentary. Gray matter is made out of all the functional neurons and nerve synapses, while white matter helps in the connection of these neurons. In other words, while gray matter processes information, white matter transfers it. White matter dissipates as we grow older, even among the healthiest of people, but the effects of such loss are greatly mitigated if we keep a daily physical routine.
What’s the problem, then? The study that we previously mentioned a few lines above has found that the volume of gray matter among healthy people who exercise in air polluted areas is smaller than those who exercise in areas where air is cleaner. Not only that, natural lesions in white matter were found to be more numerous in people who exercise in air polluted areas, compared to those who do so in places not as polluted. A follow–up study, done by the same team of researchers, found that risks of dementia were considerably low as long as people exercised in clean spaces, while moderately polluted zones increased long–term risks of developing latter in life, regardless of the kind and intensity of physical activity.
The reason why this happens is fairly easy to understand. Exercise requires the body to breathe bigger pockets of air. If you do your daily run or strength training at a park near a highly polluted strip of road, you will breathe concentrations of toxins and pollutants produced by motor vehicles. The data obtained by both studies is alarming, but it comes as no surprise to us. The link between pollution and cognition is something that we have already dealt with. What these two studies show is how air pollution physically deteriorates the brain, even amongst the healthier of us, which explains the decrease in intelligence and concentration that we have already observed in previous articles.
Both studies were conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona, but the data pool they worked with was British. They obtained the records of 8,600 middle–aged adults out of the UK Biobank, a biomedical database with genetic information from half a million of people from all over the UK, including age, socioeconomic status, and general health data. They even convinced some of the participants to undergo through a brain scan and wear activity gear to track their exercise routines for a week. Researchers studied this latter group of people in depth, as their trackers showed that they lead an intensive physical lifestyle. For reasons of control, they also included a group of people who never exercise. Latter, they stablished the degrees of air pollution in the areas where these people lived and exercised, finally comparing brain scans when all the data was in place.
The process was rigorously constructed and the results are solid: exercise brings plenty of benefits to the body and the mind, but breathing polluted air nulls them out. Similar results, found through the same procedure, were obtained with the second study. It is hard to argue against these discoveries. The quality of the air around us has a major influence in the quality of our work outs, so it doesn’t matter if we burn ourselves out if we exercise in the middle of a highly polluted city.
Yes, it is, but there are things that can be done about it. For starters, we can always look for alternative places to exercise. Avoiding parks near contaminated roads is a good beginning, and some people may even go as far as wearing a mask while working out, but that is not something that we recommend, as it will obtrude the air your lungs demand during intense physical activity.
Of course, running or doing any other physical activity out in Nature is the preferred thing to do, but if we do not have access to a pristine environment, we may decide to exercise indoors to avoid the harmful effects of pollution in our brain’s physique. But not so fast: the quality of air indoors is just as bad as outdoors, sometimes even worse, for reason we have already detailed elsewhere. What about a gym? There are all kinds of gyms, some of them small and crowded, others large and with plenty of space between people, but for them to have a good quality of air, they require to have an efficient system to filter out all forms of air pollutants. That’s something we at AIR8 are experts about and can offer a helping hand.
The conclusions reached by the researchers are bad, but that should’t discourage us from still doing our best to take care of our health. The kind of products that we offer are a perfect fit for gyms and other wellness centers, as our medical–grade HEPA–13 technology ensures that 99,97% of all toxins, pathogens and viruses, such as Covid-19, are properly filtered out from any closed doors environments. PM 2.5 particles, Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and other pollutants harmful to our brain, lungs and bones, are also effectively filtered out from indoors.
Our filters cover areas as large as 1399 ft2, and use various stages of pre–filtration and filtration, such as Ioniser and UV–GI lights. They come in different sizes and can easily be moved around from one room to another. AIR8 filters will keep any gym’s air fresh, clean and sanitary. Best of all, they employ Activated Carbon as part of the filtration process, which converts chemical molecules from a gaseous to a solid state, which helps control odor, a big issue that can be encountered in closed places where people exercise.
We offer the best product available in the market, with the best CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) available. So why not contact us to get a quote? You can even try our demo kit. It will all be worth it: your clients will be able to exercise and keep fit, while avoiding all of the problems caused by indoor air pollution.