People have asked me if it is healthy to exercise or ride a bicycle in the congested and polluted New York metro area. According to this much quoted in the past week study from the University of Copenhagen - it is better to exercise than not in polluted cities when looking at death rates. But is their air pollution even comparable to ours? What does it do to our lungs to bicycle daily behind smoke belching buses?
Even the researcher said:"It is also important to note that these results pertain to Denmark and sites with similar air pollution levels, and may not necessary be true in cities with several fold higher air pollution levels, as seen in other parts of the world." They also stated: "...we would still advise people to exercise and cycle in green areas, parks, woods, with low air pollution and away from busy roads, when possible." From Science Daily:
The beneficial effects of exercise are more important for our health than the negative effects of air pollution, in relation to the risk of premature mortality, new research shows. In other words, benefits of exercise outweigh the harmful effects of air pollution.The study shows that despite the adverse effects of air pollution on health, air pollution should be not perceived as a barrier to exercise in urban areas. "Even for those living in the most polluted areas of Copenhagen, it is healthier to go for a run, a walk or to cycle to work than it is to stay inactive," says Associate Professor Zorana Jovanovic Andersen from the Centre for Epidemiology and Screening at the University of Copenhagen.
It is well known that physical activity reduces, while air pollution increases the risk of premature mortality. Physical activity amplifies respiratory intake and accumulation of air pollutants in our lungs, which may increase the harmful effects of air pollution during exercise."However, we would still advise people to exercise and cycle in green areas, parks, woods, with low air pollution and away from busy roads, when possible," she adds.
The Danish study includes 52,061 subjects, aged 50-65 years, from the two main cities Aarhus and Copenhagen, who participated in the cohort study Diet, Cancer and Health..,5,500 participants died before 2010, and the researchers observed about 20% fewer deaths among those who exercised than among those who didn't exercise, even for those who lived in the most polluted areas, in central Copenhagen and Aarhus, or close to busy roads and highways.
"It is also important to note that these results pertain to Denmark and sites with similar air pollution levels, and may not necessary be true in cities with several fold higher air pollution levels, as seen in other parts of the world," concludes Andersen.