The Dual Effects of Outdoor Exercise in Polluted Areas

Here in Los Angeles where PERF is located, we possess year-round moderate temperatures and sunny skies, making outdoor exercise a possibility every month of the year. Although the air quality in the Los Angeles basin has improved remarkably in the past couple of decades, we continue to be a region plagued by air pollution. These two factors make for a benefit/detriment dichotomy when it comes to exercising outdoors, particularly for those suffering from COPD. Exercising outdoors can increase the intake of pollutants into the lungs by a factor as high as five. It’s important to employ some strategies when exercising outdoors in order to reduce the harmful effects of air pollution.

Strategies to Mitigate the Harmful Effects of Air Pollution

Monitor the air quality index in your region and adjust your plans for outdoor exercise accordingly. If you live in Southern California, you can visit to determine the air quality at any time that you plan to exercise outdoors. If you live elsewhere, do a Google search for “air quality index” for your city or state to find a service that reports on pollution levels in your area.

In warm months, exercise outdoors in the morning. Particles in the air and ground-level ozone are lower during the cooler hours of the morning than later in the day.

On high-pollution days, exercise indoors at home with the windows closed, or at an indoor gym.

You may need to avoid exercising outdoors when it is very cold, too. While cold air isn’t the same as pollution, in some people it can make the airways constrict, making it harder to breathe.

Thanks to BREATHE LA for much of the information contained in this article.

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