Doctors have always recommended old people to go out as much as possible and be physically active. However, going on walks and exercise sessions in a city which struggles with severe air pollution minimizes the positive effect of physical activity. A team of researchers from the Imperial College, London, discovered how any kind of exposure to traffic fumes can cut the benefits of a brisk walk.
Air pollution can cut the benefits of walking
Air pollution is one of the most serious threats to our health. There are plenty of polluting fine particles in the air which end up in our lungs, leading to the development of various respiratory diseases. Also, these particles can favorize heart disease, and thus increase the risk of death.
For the study, researchers decided to analyze the direct impact of air pollution on the health of older people. Therefore, 119 people aged over 60 had to take a two-hour walk across Hyde Park, and then across one of the busiest areas on Oxford Street. None of the participants had heart disease or was suffering from any kind of lung condition.
Older people should opt for greener areas when they want to go out
After the walk in the park, all participants experienced beneficial effects on their health. In only one hour, their arteries became less stiff, their blood pressure decreased, and their lung capacity greatly improved. However, after walking on the busy street, there were almost no changes in their lung and heart capacity.
This means that air pollution can really reduce the benefits that walking has for the elderly. Therefore, researchers advise older people to choose parks and green spaces whenever they want to go out and perform some exercise. Also, the same results might show the current levels of air pollution on the streets are way too high. This way, we might impose new limits for the pollutant levels present in the air.