It is undeniable that exercising is one of the keys to a healthy lifestyle.
However, jogging in the middle of Paris remains a very questionable practice.
While we know that breathing polluted outdoor air exposes us to risks, what happens if we combine air pollution and increased breathing?
At R-PUR, we are convinced that a global understanding of air pollution would allow to change mentalities more quickly.
We have therefore deciphered for you, sportsmen, the effects of this practice, and the gestures to adopt.
How is air pollution detected?
Air pollution is measured using four key indices: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and PM10.
This is the Atmo index, which since January 1, 2021, has also integrated the PM 2.5, these fine particles below 2.5 micrometers :
There are regulations for each of these sources of pollution, and thresholds to be respected based on WHO recommendations.
When one of the thresholds exceeds the WHO recommendations, a pollution peak is declared.
And it is particularly during these pollution peaks that the practice of outdoor sports becomes very inadvisable.
Why does pollution represent a greater danger for athletes?
First of all, it is important to remember that exposure to air pollution can cause health problems even without physical activity. The elderly, pregnant women and young children are the most vulnerable.
But when we combine sport and pollution, we increase these risks. And this for the whole population.
This risk is explained by the fact that, during a sport activity, you generally inhale more air and breathe it more deeply into your lungs.
And because you are more likely to breathe deeply through your mouth during exercise, the air you breathe in usually bypasses the natural filter in your nasal passages.
Still, one might ask: do the benefits of exercise outweigh the effects of pollution?
The answer is yes, according to a study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology.
What are the health effects?
The study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology took place in South Korea, on a sample of 1.5 million people and over a period of 5 years.
This study analyzed the exposure to fine particles PM2.5 and PM10 of the participants of this study, all aged between 20 and 39 years.
The exposure to PM2.5 and PM10 of the participants doing sports (given in MET-min, which is the Metabolic Equivalent of Task, MET) is compared to their Hazard Ratio, which corresponds to the risk of contracting a cardiovascular disease.
The result of this study is as follows: doing sport is beneficial to health. It even reduces the risk of contracting a cardiovascular disease by 40%.
On the other hand, playing sports in a polluted environment (i.e. above the WHO recommendation threshold) would increase this risk by 30%.
As an indication, in Paris in the first quarter of 2021, this threshold was exceeded 42 days out of 90, i.e. one day out of two.
It is therefore scientifically proven: playing sports increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
As a reminder, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the world. The Global Burden of Disease reports 17 million deaths attributed to CVD between 2006 and 2016.
How to limit this damage while continuing to exercise?
Playing sports in the city: instructions for use.
In order to get the most out of sports, here is a comprehensive list of things to do.
1. Avoid pollution peak alerts.
To limit the damage caused by pollution, the first thing to do is to limit your exposure.
To do this, you can first of all get information from the Associations Agréées de Surveillance de la Qualité de l'Air such as Airparif for the Ile-de-France.
Parisians can visit the AirParif website to obtain air quality forecasts for Paris and potential pollution peaks.
Paris is not the only city whose pollution is referenced: each region depends on a particular organization.
For example, if you live in the Bordeaux region, Atmo Nouvelle-Aquitaine will be your reference organization.
2. Watch the weather
The weather and the weather outside greatly affect air quality.
Thus, relying on weather phenomena can also be a good starting point if you know the movements of the weather:
- Sunshine and warm weather is not an ally for athletes because it promotes certain pollutants, such as Ozone.
The reactions that create harmful ozone in our atmosphere require sunlight. In summer, and especially during heat waves ext