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How to Protect Yourself From Urban Air Pollution

It’s the time of year again when you get to spend more hours joggling outdoors. Yeah!!

Of course, that also means your lungs will be filled up with much more unfiltered outdoor air. Not a problemsmog in the city if you live in the country and don’t suffer from allergies. But if you live in an urban environment, the air will be full of pollutants which are particularly bad for your health. It’s even worse for people who do outdoor aerobic exercises like joggling.

We’ve previously wrote about joggling in pollution but this press release from the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center serves as a good reminder of risks and action steps you can take to reduce them.

Problem Pollutants

The primary pollutants that urban jogglers need to worry about are ozone, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter.

As I learned in an Air Chemistry course I took circa 1991, urban ozone is produced by a reaction between sunlight and car exhaust. It also has the unfortunate effect of making it harder to take deep breaths and increasing breathing speed. That makes working out much tougher.

What to do – Run in early morning or evening because ozone levels will be at their lowest.


Carbon Monoxide
This stuff comes right out of car exhaust and is also a major component of cigarette smoke. Inhale enough of it and you could die. However, that’s not likely to be a real problem if your just getting whiffs of it from outdoor air. What you will more likely experience is headaches, dizziness, and confusion. Which explains a lot about the way my head feels after finishing a 15 mile joggle.

What to do – Run on side streets or on running paths in parks instead of main streets. There will be less car and people traffic.


Fine particulate matter

These are little bits of carbon and other pollutants that come from diesel trucks and buses. When you breath them in they’ll irritate and inflame your lungs. This leads to more mucus production which makes breathing harder which reduces oxygen in your blood which ultimately makes it harder to run.

What to do – Run indoors. Can’t beat the fine filtered air of a fitness center.

Joggling is great exercise and summer is one of the most enjoyable times to do it. Just be careful not to make hazardous to your health.

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