CREAL. Centre for research in environmental epidemiology


Search

Home > News

Back to newsNews

Exercise can outweigh harmful effects of air pollution

The research results have been published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Exercise can outweigh harmful effects of air pollution

A new research from the University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with other research centres as CREAL, Danish Cancer Research Center and Imperial College London, has found that the beneficial effects of exercise are more important for our health than the negative effects of air pollution, in relation to the risk of premature mortality. In other words, benefits of exercise outweigh the harmful effects of air pollution.

The study shows that despite the adverse effects of air pollution on health, air pollution should be not perceived as a barrier to exercise in urban areas. "Even for those living in the most polluted areas of Copenhagen, it is healthier to go for a run, a walk or to cycle to work than it is to stay inactive," says Associate Professor Zorana Jovanovic Andersen from the Centre for Epidemiology and Screening at the University of Copenhagen.

Air pollution a barrier to exercise?

It is well known that physical activity reduces, while air pollution increases the risk of premature mortality. Physical activity amplifies respiratory intake and accumulation of air pollutants in our lungs, which may increase the harmful effects of air pollution during exercise.

"Air pollution is often perceived as a barrier to exercise in urban areas. In the face of an increasing health burden due to rising physical inactivity and obesity in modern societies, our findings provide support for efforts in promoting exercise, even in urban areas with high pollution," says Andersen, first author of the study.

"On the other hand, we would still advise people to exercise and cycle in green areas, parks, woods, with low air pollution and away from busy roads, when possible”, explains the coordinator of the study, Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, CREAL researcher.

The study

This study is the first large population-based, prospective cohort study that has examined the joint effects of both physical activity and air pollution on mortality. It is based on high quality data on both physical activity and air pollution exposure.

The study includes 52,061 subjects, aged 50-65 years, from the two main cities Aarhus and Copenhagen, who participated in the cohort study Diet, Cancer and Health. From 1993-97, they reported on their physical leisure activities, including sports, cycling to/from work and in their leisure time, gardening and walking. The researchers then estimated air pollution levels from traffic at their residential addresses.

5,500 participants died before 2010, and the researchers observed about 20% fewer deaths among those who exercised than among those who didn't exercise, even for those who lived in the most polluted areas, in central Copenhagen and Aarhus, or close to busy roads and highways.

"It is also important to note that these results pertain to Denmark and sites with similar air pollution levels, and may not necessary be true in cities with several fold higher air pollution levels, as seen in other parts of the world," concludes Andersen.

Reference of the study

Zorana Jovanovic Andersen, Audrey de Nazelle, Michelle Ann Mendez, Judith Garcia-Aymerich, Ole Hertel, Anne Tjønneland, Kim Overvad, Ole Raaschou-Nielsen, and Mark J. Nieuwenhuijsen. A Study of the Combined Effects of Physical Activity and Air Pollution on Mortality in Elderly Urban Residents: The Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Cohort. Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1408698


Related

CONTACT

Communications Manager:
Raül Toran

Telephone:
(+34) 93 214 73 33
(+34) 696 912 841

Email:
rtoran(ELIMINAR)@creal.cat


ISGlobal - Campus Mar · Doctor Aiguader, 88 · E-08003 Barcelona · Tel +34 93 214 73 00 · Fax +34 93 214 73 02 · e-mail: RSS

Council:

Scientific context: