Air pollution – Should I exercise outdoors?

With the ultra-low emission zone coming into effect in England’s capital, it’s worth the question – what effect does pollution have on my outdoor fitness?

As part of the strategy to reduce the toxic levels of air pollution in London, an additional charge (on top of the current weekday congestion charge) is to be applied to vehicles that do not meet the emissions standards.

Benefits of training outdoors

For me, there’s nothing better than training outside – in the great outdoors, with a fresh breeze on your face. Okay, so it’s not all that amazing on cold, wet winter days – but even then it’s not too bad once you’ve got going!
Benefits of training outdoors include:

😊 Improved mood
😊 Enhanced Self-esteem
😊 Easily accessible
😊 It’s affordable

Effects of air pollution on your health

We all know that pollution is not good for our health. Over exposure can lead to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and can also exacerbate other health problems.

Asthma sufferers should take particular care (and should always carry any medication with them as advised by their doctor).

Should I stay indoors? Do I need to wear a mask?

The key to limiting your exposure to harmful pollution is to know your surrounding area. If you’re planning on running/exercising outdoors then it’s always going to be best to stay away from main roads.

You could also wear a mask. Covering your mouth and nose is thought to reduce the amount of polluted air particles entering your airways.  Wearing a mask can also keep your face and breath warm on really cold days. [Note: I am not talking about restricted airflow masks here, they are thought to benefit training by reducing the amount of oxygen in each breath, somewhat mimicking the oxygen levels at altitude.]

You can check the air pollution forecast, and if you’re living or training in a pollution hotspot here.

If you can, exercise in areas away from main roads, avoid rush hour and note that wet and windy days tend to have lower air pollution levels.

The key to any kind of exercise regime is to find something that you enjoy and can stick to, if that happens to be training outdoors then fantastic, choose the time and location sensibly and enjoy it!