Going for a long walk on polluted, traffic-laden streets in an attempt to get fit has negligible benefits on your health, a new study has found.
UK researchers explored the benefits of walking in people over the age of 60 and compared the impact on their health when they walked along polluted urban streets versus in the open spaces of a park.
It perhaps comes as no surprise that people walking in the park fared better. The surprise was that benefits of walking were negligible, in terms of boosting heart and respiratory health, when walking along polluted streets.
The findings, published Tuesday in the journal The Lancet, suggest that short-term exposure to traffic pollution prevents the cardiorespiratory – heart and lung – benefits of physical activity during that time.
“When you walk, your airways open up … and your blood vessels dilate, or open up… and these effects can last for a few days. When you do this in a polluted place, these effects are much smaller, so you’ve lost the benefits of exercise,” said Dr. Fan Chung, professor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, who led the study.
“When you exercise in polluted areas, you breathe in more, and you get more of the particles and gases getting to your lungs,” he said. Read more