Exercising In The City? Don't Get
Exhausted; Take It Inside
environmentalists have pointed out, it can be as dangerous to be
outdoors behind a city bus – walking or bicycling –
as it is
to be in front of one. All the exhaust and smoke – even when
they have been reduced by clean-air technology – can damage a
person's health. The dangers of urban air pollution are of special
concern to those who exercise by running, bicycling or skating. These
individuals, while trying to help their bodies through exercise, should
take care that they do not harm themselves through exposure to air
pollution is definitely a problem for those who work out in the city,
according to Dr. Ronald Crystal, chief of pulmonary and critical care
medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
The main culprits are ozone, fine particulate matter, and carbon
monoxide, he said. These pollutants irritate the lungs and respiratory
system, and can exacerbate the problems of individuals with underlying
disease – such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or
you have heart or lung disease, Crystal said, in summer, you should, if
possible, exercise indoors, preferably in an air-conditioned room. If
you must go outdoors, the early morning or evening is best. It will be
cooler, the sun is not at its peak, and the ozone levels will be at
said that epidemiologic studies have linked air pollutants to harmful
effects on the heart and lungs, to emergency hospital admissions, and
to deaths. The pollutants affect the lungs by causing inflammation or
irritation of the airway lining. More mucus and phlegm is produced, he
says, and small muscles surrounding the airway respond by squeezing
down. The work of breathing increases and it becomes more difficult to
get oxygen into the body.
addition to fine particulates – which are emitted by the
diesel engines of trucks and buses – thetwo most significant
environmental culprits are carbon monoxide and ozone, Crystal said.
Carbon monoxide arises from cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust. It
has a tremendous ability to force oxygen out of our circulatory system
– it combines with hemoglobin 200 times faster than oxygen.
Overexposure may lead to headache, dizziness, confusion, and dangerous
increases in body temperature.
which is a large component of the smog found in cities like Los Angeles
and New York, results from the interaction of sunlight and chemicals
found in car exhaust. Ozone adversely affects a person's breathing
pattern and causes the airways in the lungs to become smaller and more
resistant to oxygen exchange. Because of ozone, a person working out
has difficulty taking deep breaths, and has to breathe faster. As a
result, the exercise becomes more stressful and difficult.
offers these simple tips:
not run on or near roads where there is heavy truck or bus traffic.
out in the early morning or later in the evening.
indoors if possible.
you experience any difficulty breathing, stop your exercise immediately
and see your doctor.
taking a few simple precautions, Crystal said, you can make your
exercise a wholly good thing, and keep air pollution out of your body.
more information on NewYork-Presbyterian, visit www.nyp.org/.