News Worms
News Worms

Air Pollution In London 'So Bad It Cancels Out Benefits Of Exercise'

Air Pollution In London 'So Bad It Cancels Out Benefits Of Exercise'

"However, telling joggers to avoid polluted streets is not a solution to the problem".

A new United Kingdom study examined how even short-term exposure to tiny particles of soot or dust in traffic fumes can affect the arteries and lungs - and the research is likely applicable to Australia, says one expert.

"When you walk, your airways open up. and your blood vessels dilate, or open up. and these effects can last for a few days".

For the study, researchers at Imperial College London and Duke University recruited 199 volunteers aged 60 and older.

It could be that women in these areas are more likely to smoke or share other traits, he said. Before and after the walks (which averaged 3.1 miles at each setting), the participants underwent various tests that are created to assess the effects of exercise on heart and lung health.

Two-thirds of the volunteers had been diagnosed with either heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), while the others were healthy (no pre-existing heart or lung condition).

Commenting on the results, Fan Chung, Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Head of Experimental Studies Medicine at the National Heart & Lung Institute at Imperial College London and senior author of the study, said: "These findings are important as for many people, such as the elderly or those with chronic disease, very often the only exercise they can do is to walk".

Traffic along Oxford Street is restricted to allow mainly buses and taxis, which typically run on diesel fuel.

Air pollution in parts of central London is so bad it cancels out the benefits of doing exercise outdoors, according to new research by a charity.

Volunteers who took a walk in Hyde Park experienced a decrease in the stiffness of their arteries, a benefit normally seen after exercise.

However a walk along Oxford Street led to only a small transient increase in lung capacity, and substantial worsening of arterial stiffness (average 7% increase in pulse wave velocity) associated with greater exposure to black carbon soot and ultrafine particles from diesel exhaust. The volunteers are a little more vulnerable to the effects of pollution than the average healthy person 20 years younger.

The team highlighted that some of the benefits from walking in the park could be impacted by more pleasant surroundings and reduced stress, but they believe this does not account for the significant difference they saw.

Thurston said people anxious about whether pollution is counteracting the benefits of their exercise can find pollution monitors that link to smartphones. A study in younger people should be done, he said.

"These would apply to European cities and North American cities where the pollution levels are more similar", Chung said.

"The findings suggest that air pollution from road traffic in London is adversely affecting foetal growth", the study's authors concluded.

However, recent studies across a range of age groups have found physical activity to be beneficial, even in the face of high pollution levels.

Brooke Havlik, communications director for the New York-based nonprofit organization WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said that far from improving the situation, the going backward at a federal level when it comes to combatting air pollution.

"Our model indicates that in London, health benefits of active travel always outweigh the risk from pollution", lead author of the research Marko Tainio said when it was published in 2016. Even though London is not one of the world's most notoriously polluted cities, there is a lot of diesel pollution in downtown streets such as Oxford Street, and there is much less in nearby Hyde Park, with its trees, bushes and grassy spaces.


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