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How To Be Active When The Air Hurts

New Year’s Resolution to be healthier?  New running shoes? Air polluted so badly that you end up coughing and feeling lousy all day? 

The winter air in many places is less than ideal due to an increase in pollutants from increased driving and heating of homes.

If you live in a place that has inversions, a condition where a dense layer of cold air is trapped beneath warm air like a lid, that air pollution can concentrate and make breathing difficult. 

Those fine particles that make up the majority of air pollution can get past the usual defensive mechanisms in the body, irritating the full length of the respiratory tract. If you have breathing difficulties from conditions such as asthma or from smoking, you can really get hit hard.

  • Here are some things to make your exercise easier on your lungs during bad air days:

  • Be active when cars aren’t.

  • Avoid walking or running during rush hour times when pollution is highest.

  • You aren’t a car, so find a trail or other path in a park that is away from cars in order to lower your exposure. 

  • Car exhaust is extremely irritating, stay away from places where it concentrates such as intersections. If you can, be active indoors. However, indoor air can also be full of irritants as well, so avoid exercise after vacuuming or dusting to minimize impact.

  • Check the air quality index each day and if it is a poor air day, stay inside.

Be active, be healthy, Dr. Brett McIff

Dr. Brett McIff has worked in physical activity promotion for over 20 years in a variety of fields from personal training to policy development.  He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Utah in Exercise and Sports Science. He continued his graduate work with a Master of Science in Public Health and a Ph.D. in Public Health at Walden University.  Brett has served as President of the National Physical Activity Society and as President of the Utah Chapter of the Society of Public Health Educators and served on expert panels with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Academy of Science.  He works with committees at the national, state, and local levels to promote environments that encourage regular physical activity. 


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