There is a layer of smog that covers up the city sometimes and we can never be pleased with it-its not the fog due to chillness but one due to smoke and other air pollutants. Air pollution is reaching newer heights every day with almost every family owning a two-wheeler and many of us having one or even two cars sometimes. Energy use and production contribute majorly to air pollution which not only affect climate change but also gets aggravated by the same and also raises earth’s temperature. There have been numerous health effects of air pollution discovered and they include a host of respiratory ailments (such as asthma), cardiovascular diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes (preterm birth) and sometimes death too. It was not long back in 2013 that the World Health Organization declared outdoor air pollution to be carcinogenic to humans. Almost more than 90% of us live in places where air quality exceeds WHO guidelines. Get more information about air pollution by visiting the website www.firsteatright.com.
We do know that exercise keeps us healthy, elevates our mood, takes off depression, anxiety and stress, keeps us in good spirit and reduces the risk of chronic diseases, especially cardiovascular disease risk. On the other hand, pollution has the potential to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, asthma and COPD. So, the question does arise whether air pollution and poor air quality cancel the benefits of exercise on cardiovascular health. Researchers have looked into this issue by evaluating exercise levels (which includes gardening, cycling, sports and walking) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2 is mostly the result of traffic) levels of 51,868 adults aged between 50 and 65 years. Over the 17.7 years period 2,936 of them were hit by heart attack for the first time while 324 suffered from recurrent heart attack.
Researchers could associate the link between increased levels of NO2 with more frequent heart attacks but the risk was lower among those who were physically active. While moderate cycling for around 4 hours every week cut down risks by 31% the risk further decreased by almost 58% when all four types of physical activity discussed above were performed. Also, those who practiced sports had a 15% lower rate of initial heart attack and a 9% lower risk coming from the benefits of cycling irrespective of the air quality. But those residing in areas where exposure to NO2 was greater faced 17% increased risk in first-time heart attack and 39% for recurrent heart attack.
This study clearly shows that performing physical activity regularly has the potential to reduce the risk of cardiovascular illness in individuals despite higher air pollution levels. While pollution can cause damage to health it cannot bring down the benefits exercise can have on an individual. Also, one needs to understand that moderate-intensity exercises are good enough to bring about benefits to individuals living in polluted areas. Maybe you can cycle to work, catch a bus from your second-nearest bus stop or walk daily to improve health.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.