A new study carried out by researchers from ISGlobal, and published in the journal Environment International, has analyzed the health effects of physical exercise in the city, under exposure to air pollution caused by car traffic. Research concludes that exposure to high levels before and during activity may reduce the health benefits of activity.
The work, which is part of the European EXPOsOMICS project, has been carried out in Barcelona with 30 healthy people, who have been individually monitored for four days in different scenarios of exposure to air pollution.
The results show that the participants experienced a significant increase in airway function in the short term, lasting for several hours after physical activity, even in polluted environments.
However, exposure to high levels of pollution attenuated the respiratory benefits derived from exercise. Specifically, people experienced a short-term decline in upper and lower respiratory function, regardless of the level of physical activity they had engaged in.
Research suggests that physical activity reduces the negative effects that some particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10, and PMcoarse) have on the airways. Furthermore, the previous level of exposure also influenced the lung function of the participants.
More studies needed
Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, coordinator of the work and director of the Urban Planning, Environment and Health initiative of ISGlobal, explains that “previous analyzes had already shown that people who play sports in the city were more exposed to air pollution, but there was the he doubts whether the practice in highly polluted environments was beneficial or detrimental to lung function ”.
The study carried out shows that exposure to various environmental pollutants "does have an impact on the respiratory tract, but more studies are needed to confirm this association."
Another research, coordinated by ISGlobal and published in 2015, already showed that the benefits of physical activity on our health are greater than the damages caused by air pollution.
Matt F, Cole-Hunter T, Donaire-Gonzalez D, Kubesch N, Martinez D, Carrasco-Turigas G, Nieuwenhuijsen M. Acute respiratory response to traffic-related air pollution during physical activity performance. Environ Int 2016; 97: 45-55