Air Pollution Exposure to Adults Over 60 is Found to Cancel Health Benefits of Exercise for Them

Reason #5533 for the world to use energy sources other than fossil fuels.

Exposure to air pollution on city streets is enough to counter the beneficial health effects of exercise in older adults, according to new research.

The findings, published in The Lancet, show that short term exposure to air pollution in built up areas like London’s busy Oxford Street can prevent the positive effects on the heart and lungs that can be gained from walking.

According to the research, led by Imperial College London and Duke University, the findings add to the growing body of evidence showing the negative impacts of urban air pollution on cardiovascular and respiratory health. The authors say the effects could potentially apply to other age groups as well and highlight the need for stricter air quality limits and greater access to green spaces.

Previous research has found that diesel exhaust fumes, particularly fine particulate matter air pollution, has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death, and can cause a worsening of diseases of the airways, such as asthma.

The latest study, funded by the British Heart Foundation, is the first to show the negative effects on healthy people, people with a chronic lung condition linked with smoking called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and those with coronary heart disease — which affects the supply of blood to the heart.

“These findings are important as for many people, such as the elderly or those with chronic disease, very often the only exercise they can do is to walk,” said senior author Fan Chung, Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Head of Experimental Studies Medicine at National Heart & Lung Institute at Imperial College London. “Our research suggests that we might advise older adults to walk in green spaces, away from built-up areas and pollution from traffic,” he added.