HOW AIR QUALITY AFFECTS ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE

Outdoor workouts could expose athletes to the unhealthy effects of air pollution. Due to growing concerns about climate change, exhaust emission and industrial wastes in some cases, the air quality in big cities may not be as fresh. Studies have shown that inhalation of polluted air can lead to decreased lung function, difficult breathing, coughing and bronchospasms related symptoms induced by regular exercise. During light to moderate exercise, athletes take in more air with each inhalation in order to meet increased oxygen demands. This could prove to be tricky as air is now inhaled through the mouth, bypassing the natural filtration system of the nose. As the exercise becomes more intense and breathing increases, different air pollutants get inhaled and travel to the respiratory system unfiltered. Here we consider two factors that could pollute the air, affecting the health of athletes.

Ozone

Although this is not directly released into the air, chemical reactions between volatile organic compounds, sunlight, and heat create the ozone leading to reduced lung functions for athletes that engage in outdoor exercise when the concentrations are at its peak. The Ozone concentration is usually high at midday when solar radiation is at its peak and low during winter.

Particulate Matter

Recent studies have shown that athlete output tends to decrease in high particulate matter conditions due to the impairment of vasodilation in the peripheral vasculature. The safer the air is from automobile exhausts, the better an athlete’s performance will be as particulate matter concentration increases when the environment is polluted by emissions from automobile exhausts.

Short-term Effects of Air pollution

Athletes who are regularly exposed to air pollutants could suffer from asthma in cases where dehydration is associated with polluted air inhalation. Exposure to these air pollutants can also lead to Airway Hyper responsiveness (AHR) – a condition that causes not only to asthma, but could lead to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Long-term Effects of Air pollution

The long-term effects of air pollution to athletes should be taken seriously. Some studies have shown that people who live in areas of high particulate matter concentration are more likely to die of heart attacks. This is especially a concern for endurance athletes as they breathe in more deeply than any other person – inhaling polluted air will be even more detrimental for them.

While outdoor exercises could be dangerous as air pollution is a constant problem, it will be unwise for an athlete to completely opt in for 100 percent indoor exercise. For this reason, an athlete should take necessary steps to avoid polluted environments. This they can do by engaging in early morning or late evening workouts when the ozone concentration is at its minimum, athletes could also avoid congested roadways as emissions from automobiles could be detrimental. Athletes could also train indoors when necessary if outdoor exercise does not seem viable at the time.

 

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