While physical activity is one of the keys to a healthy lifestyle, air pollution caused by brush fires and exercise can be an unhealthy combination. If harmful particles end up in your lungs they can cause irritation, inflammation, and potentially enter the bloodstream. This can cause an increased risk of serious medical issues, including heart attacks and strokes, especially for “Sensitive Groups” of people.
So what are we supposed to do when there is air pollution? We've collected a few tips to help you make the most of your training plan while learning how to judge if it’s safe to exercise outside. Or, whether the air is too polluted to exercise at all.
Assess Air Quality
The best way to find out about air pollution levels in your area is to check your local Air Quality Index (AQI).
The AQI is calculated by measuring the amount of 'particulate matter' (microscopic pollutants) in the atmosphere. It ranks air quality from 'very good' to 'good', 'fair', 'poor', 'very poor' and 'hazardous'.
How you approach training with different allergens in the air will be very individual. If you are someone who is affected by allergens you should be aware of the conditions that might put you at risk, and plan ahead before training. Reduce exposure, training intensity, and the duration of your outdoor training, and let someone know where you are training if you are susceptible to asthma attacks. Particulate matter and ozone are ranked on the Air Quality Index on a numerical scale between 0 and 500.
You can find out the current status of the air quality in your area by checking https://www.airnow.gov/.
DETERMINE YOUR BEST OPTION FOR TRAINING
During exercise you can breathe in 10-20x more air than a sedentary person during a given period of time. This also means you are breathing in a lot more particulate pollution.
"If you can smell smoke in the air it’s a signal that the air contains far too many pollutants to be healthy for you – so limit your exposure, and go for a run another day".
If the air quality in your area is ranked as “Good” or “Fair”, air quality should pose no risk for most people, including athletes. People unusually sensitive to air pollution should reduce or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities.
If the air quality is 'Poor' or 'Very Poor', those who are more vulnerable to pollution (including children) should avoid exercising outdoors, but for otherwise healthy adults, it's essentially a 'personal decision'. If you want to keep active but don’t want to risk exercising outdoors, it is best to exercise indoors. Just make sure your exercise room is well-ventilated and that you’re paying attention to how your body is responding.
If the category should reach “Very Unhealthy or Hazardous”, you should avoid all physical activity outdoors and reduce any amount of exposure by staying indoors as much as possible. If the air quality is particularly bad, it might be safer to skip the cardio and do low-impact indoor exercises instead.
You should also take steps to reduce the amount of pollutants in indoor air. In fact you can still be impacted by reduced air quality even when running inside and therefore should avoid overexertion through vigorous exercise.
Here you can find examples of different indoor training exercise routines: