Should I exercise in bad air quality?

Exercise is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. We all know the importance of fresh air for our health. But the alarming rise in the pollution levels, both outdoor and indoor, have raised a question: Should I exercise in bad air quality?

So in this article we will try to answer this question, we will discuss the health impacts related to bad air quality and we will also tell you how you can monitor the pollution levels at your home so that you can exercise without any tension. 

Should I exercise in bad air quality?

No, you should not exercise in bad air quality. The reason being that when we exercise we inhale more air in our lungs. And we breathe mostly through our mouth during exercise. That results in air to bypass your nasal passages. Resulting the build up of PM2.5 in your arteries. This makes us more susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution. 

What are the health effects related to bad air quality 

What are the Detrimental Effects of these Pollutants on Human Health?

Types of air pollutants:

Outdoor contaminants: 

There are mainly two main classes of air pollutants: 

Outdoor environments are mainly composed of a complex mixture of certain pollutants. Outdoor pollutants are associated with:

  • vehicular traffic and industrial activities,(CO, NO2) 
  • wind-blown dust and particles, 
  • biological particles; bacteria, virus, mold etc
  • burning wood;
  • Construction
  •  agricultural operations; including raising animals and clearing land, power plants etc. 

These pollutants enter the house by infiltration or through ventilation systems. 

Indoor contaminants: 

Contaminants that originate inside the building includes; 

  • combustion sources (burning fuels, candles,
  •  coal and wood, 
  • tobacco products, 
  • emissions from building materials, 
  • VOCs; such as benzene, acrolein,  benzo(a)pyrene,
  • biological particles; bacteria, fungi, and pollen,
  • moisture processes, electronic equipment, pets, radon, etc. 

Health effects caused by the following contaminants 

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Common sources of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) at home include paints, solvents, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, household cleansers and disinfectants, air fresheners, stored fuels, dry cleaned clothes. VOCs are known to cause symptoms like

  • eye, nose and throat irritation,
  • shortness of breath, 
  • headaches, 
  • fatigue, 
  • nausea,
  • dizziness, 
  • skin problems
  • irritation of lungs as well damage to the vital organs like liver, kidneys or central nervous system.
  • Some VOCs can even cause cancer such as Benzene.

 Particulate matter

The presence of particulate matter in the indoor air causes

  • elevated susceptibility to respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory distress, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • disease as severe as lung cancer 

Biological particles (bacteria, fungi, and pollen) can cause

  • Alveolitis ( hypersensitivity pneumonia) and organic dust syndrome- caused by any biological dust that has particles. 
  • Biological particles such as mold affect the respiratory tract as well as eyes, causing allergic rhinitis, asthma and allergic conjunctivitis, fatigue, nausea, and secondary bacterial infections such as sinusitis. 


Gases (CO, NO2, Ozone, Radon)

 Carbon monoxide 

Carbon monoxide is a colourless odourless and toxic gas. Major sources of indoor carbon monoxide include; leaking chimneys and furnaces, wood stoves, gas stoves, generators and other gasoline-powered equipment, tobacco smoke

 The effects can vary depending upon the concentration. For example

  • At low concentrations, it can cause fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart    disease
  • At moderate concentrations it can cause angina, impaired vision and reduced brain function.  
  • However at higher concentrations it can cause impaired vision and coordination, dizziness, confusion, nausea and fatal at high concentrations
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

The most common indoor sources of NO2 include tobacco smoke, gas, wood-burning, kerosene, coal-burning ( stoves, ovens, fireplaces etc.)

 Nitrogen dioxide has various harmful health effects on lungs including; 

  • increased inflammation of the airways,
  • cough and wheezing, 
  • reduced lung function, 
  • increased episodes of asthma attacks.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in soil. It enters the buildings through cracks and crevices and is known to cause lung cancer if present in dangerous amounts in buildings. Sadly more than 21000 people die each year because of exposure to this poisonous gas.


Environmental tobacco smoke

Environmental tobacco smoke is also a significant contributor of indoor air pollution and releases human carcinogens like benzene. 

The smoke released from tobacco causes several health hazards like:

  • Can increase the frequency of chronic respiratory symptoms
  • Reduces the level of lung function particularly in children,
  • It Causes lung cancer in adults.

What measures can be taken to ensure that you exercise in a safe air quality? 

To ensure that you reap the maximum benefits of exercising; we will share some pro tips with you. 

The researchers have shown that long term exercising also helps combat the risk associated with the exposure to air pollution.

 You can minimise the effects of air pollution while exercising in the following ways: 

While exercising outdoors monitor air pollution levels: 

You can keep a check on the air quality index of your area to get insight about the pollution levels. There are certain websites designed for this purpose such as the Environmental Protection Agency. These sites can be accessed anytime of the day.

You can also get information from local radio, television, and newspapers. You can even contact local hospitals etc and can plan your schedule accordingly. 

Avoid exercising at peak hours

Avoid outdoor exercising during the peak hours of pollution. Air pollution levels are highest in the afternoon, so try not to go outside at that time. Exercising during peak hours increases the chance of getting exposed to high levels of pollution. 

Avoid high-pollution areas

Pollution levels are the highest near the roadways especially within 1/4 mile of a road. Highly congested urban areas and smoking areas should also be avoided.

Exercise indoors

You can exercise indoors especially if you live in urban areas. You can stay indoors; especially on low air quality days. You can also join a fitness class, local gym or indoor tracks. 

If you suffer from asthma, diabetes or other health conditions, consult with your doctor about your exercise routine. 

What can we do if the indoor air quality is unfit for exercising? Well, there are certain measures that we can take take to ensure that we breathe safe:

While exercising indoors Install  Air  Purifiers

The simplest way to improve air quality indoors is to install air purifiers. Air purifiers are devices which circulate the air through a set of filters and capture the contaminants like; microscopic particles such as dust, allergens, molds, spores, bacteria, etc, that are floating around.

Below are the best Hepa filters for improving the air quality in your basement apartment:

 Air purifier:  HATHA SPACE HEPA Air filter

  • Features:Particle efficiency of about 99.97% for particle size 0.3-0.1 micron.
  • Effective against pollen, dust, VOCs, tobacco smoke, odors, pet hair, etc.
  • Medical grade filter
  • Good for extra large rooms
  • Auto mode available for fan speed adjustment

Air purifier: LEVOIT Air Purifiers

  • Features: You can access this device from anywhere, fan speeds can also be operated through your smartphone. 
  • Better purification with its 360 degree design. Suitable for large rooms. 
  • It has an ultra fine nylon pre filter and activated carbon filter. 
  • Highly efficient against 99.7% contaminants for particles as small as 0.3 microns such as; dust pollen, pet hair, mold, odor etc. 
  • Does not make much noise
  • Voice control feature 

Air purifier: Germ guardian true HEPA filter 

  • Features: UV C light sanitizer is effective against viruses like; staph, rhinovirus,influenza, and VOCs.
  • Effective against allergens; pet dander and other large particles. 
  • It has a carbon filter and is highly effective against odors like; odor from cooking, smoking, pets etc.Does not make much noise 

Air purifier: TOPPIN HEPA Air Purifiers 

  • Features: Efficiency of about 95% for particle size of 0.3 microns. 
  • It has UV light, carbon filter and nano silver filter coating. 
  • Highly efficient against airborne contaminants; dust, pet hair, pollen and also efficient against odors, tobacco smoke etc. 
  • Fragrance sponge and aroma diffuser are also present. 
  • Purifies a large area of upto 160 sq ft
  • Low noise levels
  • UV lamps are covered to avoid direct eye contact.

Use dehumidifiers and ventilation fixtures to remove excess moisture from your house 

Several problems with indoor air quality arise from dampness, humidity and moisture. Proper ventilation and drying eliminates most of the air quality issues. Moisture becomes a breeding ground for molds such as; penicillium and aspergillus fungi and mildew in your house. Molds are not normally seen but could be identified by a characteristic odor.  

It gives rise to several  health problems like coughing, sneezing, nasal congestion, eye irritation and allergic reactions. Molds need moisture to thrive, ventilating and drying the basement will kill the mold. 

  • Installing a dehumidifier in the house will solve the purpose. The ideal range of 30%- 50 % humidity works well. Anything less than 50% will prevent mold from surviving
  • Installing ventilation fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen also serves this purpose.

You can find the links to some dehumidifiers and ventilation fixtures below: 

Dehumidifiers Gocheer Upgraded Dehumidifier

  • Features: High efficiency dehumidifier
  • Equipped with a 2000ml water tank capacity
  • It is very compact and portable
  • suitable for highly humid areas; such as the bathroom, basement, kitchen, living room etc.
  • Quiet operation of as low as 40dB
  • Comes with automatic shut off mode to prevent overflowing of water tank
  • Saves energy with a consumption of only 1.15 kW of electricity within 24 hours of operation.

Dehumidifier: COSVI Upgrade Dehumidifier

  • Features: COSVI home dehumidifier keeps moisture below 35%.
  • Comes with one-button switch design for easy operation
  • Offers a whisper quiet operation with sound levels below 35 dB.
  • Energy efficient; consumes less energy with a power only 48W/ hour after running for 24 hours. 
  • Cost effective 
  • Comes with an auto shut feature
  • Compact and lightweight ideal for bathrooms, basements, kitchen, bedrooms etc.

Ventilation fixture: AC Infinity AIRLIFT T10, Shutter Exhaust Fan

  • Features: Offers high airflow; draws out heat, moisture, odor, and dust etc.
  • EC-motor with PWM-control increases and reduces energy consumption and noise levels (67dB)
  • Blades are made of aluminium that are resistant to liquid and dust

Ventilation fixture: VENTISOL Variable Shutter Exhaust Fan

  • Features: Provides superior airflow; ideal for  garages, gardens, attics, barns, greenhouses, basements etc.
  • Easy installation consists of hard wire connection for wiring. 
  • Body made of galvanised steel frame, 3 aluminium shutter blades, fully enclosed ball bearing motor, self closing shutter system provides protection to fan when not in use
  • It’s suitable for ventilating a building to the outside.
  • Powerful & Efficient: 120 volts at 70W, 0.57 amps, with 1680rpm

Monitor the Radon Levels

High Radon levels in the house also proves to be a challenge for indoor air quality. Radon is an extremely poisonous gas that can cause lung cancer. Radon levels can be detected by a professional test or installing a radon metre at home. If your house is having dangerous levels of radon then installing a mitigation system proves beneficial as it draws out radon into the outdoor air.

Below are the links to some radon detectors to ensure safe radon levels at your home: 

Radon detector  Corentium Home Radon Detector

  • Features : Digital radon level detector which is battery operated 
  • Monitors your house without the need for an outlet 
  • Ideal for both long term and short term monitoring
  • Gives faster readings

Radon detector SafetySiren Pro4 Series 

  • Features: Offers a continuous monitoring of radon levels on an easy to read digital display 
  • High radon levels alerts can be  detected by audible alarm 
  • Visual mode is also available for hearing impaired persons

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

Luminous air purifier and humidifier

Philips 2-in-1 air purifier and humidifier series 3000i

Why are PM2.5 harmful?


So in this article we answered; should you exercise in bad air quality, we discussed the health impacts related to bad air quality and we also told you how you can monitor the pollution levels at your home so that you can exercise without any tension. 


Carbon Monoxide’s Impact on Indoor Air Quality

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5)The culprit for chronic lung diseases in China

 Indoor Air Facts No. 4 (revised) Sick Building Syndrome