According to new research, regular exercise, especially in locations with high levels of air pollution, can lower the risk of dying from natural causes.
In the “Canadian Medical Association Journal,” the study’s findings were reported.
“Habitual exercise reduces the risk of death regardless of exposure to air pollution, and air pollution generally increases the risk of death regardless of habitual exercise,” Dr. Xiang Qian Lao, Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, SAR, China, and colleagues wrote.
“As a result, frequent exercise should be advocated as a health improvement strategy, even for persons living in relatively polluted locations,” Dr. Lao noted.
They conducted a major study with 384 130 adults in Taiwan over a 15-year period, from 2001 to 2016, to better understand the impact of regular exercise and long-term exposure to fine particulate matter on the risk of mortality from natural causes. The researchers discovered that regular exercise was more helpful than inactivity, even in polluted areas, while less exposure to pollution was preferable.
“We discovered that a high level of habitual exercise combined with a low level of exposure to air pollution was associated with a lower risk of death from natural causes, whereas a low level of habitual exercise combined with a high level of exposure was associated with a higher risk of death,” the authors wrote.
This study added to a series of smaller studies conducted in the United States, Denmark, and Hong Kong, which found that regular exercise is beneficial even in polluted areas. “Further research in places with more severe air pollution is required to investigate the relevance of our findings,” the authors said.
In a related editorial, experts from The University of Sydney’s Sydney School of Public Health, Camperdown, Australia, propose that physical inactivity and air pollution should be termed “syndemics” because they influence behavior and health consequences in tandem.
Recommendations for safe exercise in polluted areas, such as indoor exercise and avoiding walking and riding on busy roads, might contribute to inequities because those of lower socioeconomic position frequently do not have these options.
“Addressing both key public health challenges through synergistic, upstream, system-level approaches would result in long-term health benefits for humans and the world,” the researchers found.