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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).

“Physical activity — cycling, walking, gardening — is a useful tool in prevention of asthma and 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 answers is yes. Dr. Anderson told MedPage Today:

Physical activity — cycling, walking, gardening — is a useful tool in prevention of asthma and COPD in healthy elderly subjects, as well as being beneficial in rehabilitation of asthma and COPD patients, as it can prevent exacerbations leading to re-hospitalizations, even in areas with high air pollution levels.

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.


Contributed by

Phil Hardesty
Exercise Physiologist

Have a healthy, happy and fit week!!

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