Walking is vouched to be beneficial on any given day. But is it truly advantageous to walk on smoggy streets? Let’s find out!
Physicians advise their elderly patients to take a walk around their homes whenever possible to keep their body fit and muscles/bones active as it is the only exercise that can be done often by them without any side effects. A new study proves that walking around a block that contains smoggy air can do more harm than good. The study advocates that breathing dirty air might outweigh any benefit that daily walk brings.
In such cases, doctors advise patients to walk in green spaces far away from the hustle bustle of the pollution from traffic and built-up areas. This is not possible in the case of any and every individual as people living in the inner city might have to travel farther away from where they live or work.
Traffic-polluted streets nullify the cardio-respiratory effects of walking in older adults. Also, peak traffic hours should be avoided by elderly people to go for a walk as they might suffer from COPD and exercising indoors is the best in such scenarios. Read more on COPD and its effect on health at www.firsteatright.com.
The Participants in the Study
The study involved 119 participants (all non-smokers presently) aged 60 years and older out of which 40 people were healthy, 40 were being treated for COPD and 39 were being treated for heart disease. Every participant was made to walk on the street for two hours everyday either in a lane that contained plenty of traffic or a quiet section of the park. After 3-8 weeks the participants swapped and did the other walk.
Before and during each walk, the study group assessed levels of traffic-related air pollutants such as black carbon, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide. The group also measured the lung function and heart health of the participants.
Results showed that walking in the quiet park improved older people’s lung capacity and eased stiffness in their arteries for up to 26 hours. On the other hand, walking on the streets was linked to stiffness in arteries due to increased exposure to carbon soot and other air pollutants associated with diesel exhaust. These negative effects were increasingly seen in individuals with COPD as they developed blockages of the small airways that caused them to cough, wheeze or feel short of breath. If any of these individuals were not taking medication for any of these conditions, they experienced more stiffness.
This shows the greater side effects of cardiovascular and respiratory impacts of even a short, two-hour exposure to motor traffic pollution. This calls for stricter rules, better traffic-control measures and stringent air quality limits to be imposed in the cities worldwide to minimize effects due to air pollution.
As the humans impact the environment, the environment in turn impacts us.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.