To outdoor or not ? Effects of Exercising in Poor Air Quality

Exercise for fitness, for a better health.

But when exercising is a big part of you, then, you’d exercise anyways, irregardless what form they are.
I love being outdoor, out in the nature. Exercising with the presence of nature keeps me energized.

When I travel, I look at the air quality where I am at, as I am concerned about my health. I get light headache and my eyes get itchy easily when I am exposed to air pollution. Due to recent longer period of haze in South East Asia, I am now indoor bound. Sad, but exercise must go on.

Here’s some info I collated from various sources about the effect of exercising in poor air quality.


  1. BMC Psychiatry
    “Exposure to high levels of haze particles may cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat in healthy individuals.  Such irritation resolves on its own in most cases.Haze particles can affect the heart and lungs, especially in people who already have chronic heart or lung disease e.g. asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or heart failure.”
    In another study, “A total of 298 participants returned the completed study questionnaire. The respondents reported a mean number of 4.03 physical symptoms (S.D. = 2.6). The five most common physical symptoms include mouth or throat discomfort (68.8%), nose discomfort (64.1%), eye discomfort (60.7%), headache (50.3%) and breathing difficulty (40.3%). ” The participants also experienced mild psychological stress but not to the extent of acute stress reaction syndrome.  from  


  1. Singapore Health Promotion Board
    “Studies have shown that persons living overseas with continuous exposure over several years to high ambient pollution from fine particles (i.e. particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5); particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres), may have a higher risk of (i) cardiovascular effects, such as heart attacks, (ii) reduced lung development, as well as (iii) the development of chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma, in children.”

  2. The Journal of Epidemeology & Community Health
    “Outdoor physical activity, however, can expose people to air pollutants (particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen oxides) that may negatively influence physical activity  and lead to adverse health problems such as cardiopulmonary or respiratory disease and other diseases, including lung cancer. For example, in a national cross-sectional study, increased air pollution is found to be associated with reduced leisure-time physical activity among American adults,14 while other studies in the USA and Europe have found that people with asthma who walked in polluted air exhibited a significant decline in their lung function, children who played multiple sports in high-ozone communities were at increased risk for asthma, and the health benefits for physically active people living in highwalkable neighbourhoods were compromised by the effects of air pollution exposure.”
  3. Public Health Watch
    “Besides the direct physical effects of breathing in harmful air — which include asthma, cardiovascular disease and even cancer — studies also show that exposure to air pollution increases the risk for a host of mental health problems ranging from suicide and schizophrenia to ADHD and autism.
    Of particular concern is fine particle air pollution, which is implicated as the causal agent in many of these adverse health conditions. Found in smoke and haze from car exhausts, burning wood and power plants, fine particle air pollution is defined as particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter (PM2.5).
    This form of air pollution is a major health concern, as small particles can easily pass through the throat and nose and get deep into the lungs, causing major health problems.”

Know the risks when you exercise in poor air quality as studies show it can affect you physically and psychologically. You can resort to indoor activities like indoor swimming, zumba, aerobics and working out in the gym. It is not the same as working out outdoors, but our lung and hearts are sensitive organs that we need to care for. If only we can get readings from our lungs and hearts on state of health, perhaps we can workout more outdoors, enjoy physical activities and care for ourselves.