Friday, 15 December, 2017

Exposure to air pollution counters exercise benefits

Hyde Park is the better place to exercise Credit Michael Kemp  Alamy Stock Hyde Park is the better place to exercise Credit Michael Kemp Alamy Stock
Ben Pena | 06 December, 2017, 23:20

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: 'How very sad that our streets are so traffic-polluted that older people trying to keep themselves healthy are in fact doing themselves harm. The study found no conclusive effect on babies health by noise pollution. Environmental measurements were also collected, to track pollution levels and volunteers' exposure.

'When exercising it's best to avoid highly-polluted areas, swapping them for green spaces or even back streets where pollution is lower.

A team led by Imperial College London used national birth registers to study more than 540,000 births in Greater London between 2006 and 2010.

Led by Imperial College London along with researchers from Duke University, US, the new study is the first to show that air pollution can have a negative effect on healthy people, people with a chronic lung condition linked with smoking called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and those with coronary heart disease - which affects the supply of blood to the heart. One was a quieter area in Hyde Park, while the other was along a busier section of Oxford Street, where pollution usually exceeds the air quality limits set by the World Health Organization. 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.

Blood flow and heart rate also increased after a walk in the park, blood pressure decreased, and arteries became less stiff.

Noise and air pollution in both of the settings were also measured at the times of the walks.

The researchers found levels of pollution - including fine particulate matter, black carbon and nitrogen dioxide - were significantly higher on Oxford Street compared to Hyde Park.

Pedestrians walk along London's busy Oxford Street.

Significant differences in arterial stiffness were also observed.

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In the study, researchers recruited 119 volunteers through the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, who were over the age of 60 and were either healthy, had stable COPD, or had stable heart disease.

Transient subjection to traffic exhaust in built up locations like New York City's Broadway or Chicago's Michigan Avenue can annul the positive outcomes of a two hour walk which would have benefitted the heart and lungs of these people.

The study added: "These beneficial responses were attenuated after walking on Oxford Street".

Interestingly, the study found that the volunteers with heart disease who were being treated with medication were less negatively affected by the pollution. It involved, for example, a small number of participants, all of who were from the London area.

"Exercise is crucial in reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke, but it seems unsafe levels of air pollution could be erasing these benefits in older adults".

Still, the findings point to how hard it is for many people to personally improve their health when the built environments of our communities do not support - or even undermine - those efforts. "Our research suggests that we might advise older adults to walk in green spaces, away from built-up areas and pollution from traffic".

"For people living in the inner city it may be hard to find areas where they can go and walk, away from pollution. Any policies aimed at reducing road traffic pollution in urban environments could therefore help to reduce the health impact on unborn babies and their life-long disease risk".

"Combined with evidence from other recent studies, our findings underscore that we can't really tolerate the levels of air pollution that we now find on our busy streets", said Fan Chung, professor of respiratory medicine and head of experimental studies medicine at the National Heart & Lung Institute at Imperial College.

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