Monday, November 4, 2013

Keeping Pollutants Out with Exercise

Food, drugs, air and everyday products like soap, cloth and grocery receipts are polluting our bodies with hundreds of toxic chemicals. New chemicals are constantly being introduced into our environment and the effects of most of them on human health are not known. About 30% of human diseases are due to environmental exposures as genetics is not the whole story. 

Whether rich or poor, our bodies are burdened with toxic waste. High socioeconomic status means more mercury and arsenic from fancy fish, chemicals from carpet cleaning and sun screens. Poverty is associated with chemicals from  smoking and eating canned food. Besides, high fat diet and other prior exposures make us even more vulnerable and less able to handle the load of toxic waste. 

Intake of toxins from food, drugs and personal care products can be minimized by smarter consumption, awareness and learning - although sometimes we need a pair of earmuffs to filter excessively negative information in the press. But what about the chemicals in the air? Should we try to stay inside residential buildings and limit exercise if we live in urban environments? 
Air pollution and aerobic exercise could be a very unhealthy combination. Pre-workout exposure to polluted air raises heart rates during the workout. During aerobic activity we typically inhale more air through our mouth bypassing the nasal passages, thus not filtering out pollution particles and breathing them more deeply into our lungs. Certainly, people with or predisposed to asthma, diabetes and other chronic conditions might want to avoid spending times outdoors when air is polluted. But for the rest of us, physical activities like walking or biking to work could be OK - if we pedal harder. 

Polluted air can, indeed, promote inflammation, but exercise builds abilities to fight inflammation, making us stronger over time and protecting our bodies from negative effects of pollution. Mild levels of exercise can make us inhale even more polluted air. But if we apply sustainable efforts, our respiratory or metabolic responses are practically the same as in the clean air. Is it because heavier breathing helps us to getting rid of the pollutants before they had a chance to trigger harmful effects? 

Whatever the explanation - exercise is good for you. It is your best defense against pollution. 

Giles LV, & Koehle MS (2013). The Health Effects of Exercising in Air Pollution. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) PMID: 24174304

Tyrrell J, Melzer D, Henley W, Galloway TS, & Osborne NJ (2013). Associations between socioeconomic status and environmental toxicant concentrations in adults in the USA: NHANES 2001-2010. Environment international, 59, 328-35 PMID: 23892225

Vieira RP, Toledo AC, Silva LB, Almeida FM, Damaceno-Rodrigues NR, Caldini EG, Santos AB, Rivero DH, Hizume DC, Lopes FD, Olivo CR, Castro-Faria-Neto HC, Martins MA, Saldiva PH, Dolhnikoff M. (2012)  Med Sci Sports Exerc. Jul;44(7):1227-34. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31824b2877. Anti-inflammatory effects of aerobic exercise in mice exposed to air pollution. PMID: 22297803


  1. ". Certainly, people with asthma, diabetes and other chronic conditions should avoid spending times outdoors when air is polluted." Why people with diabetes should avoid spending times outdoors when air is polluted ? give source of this revelation or maybe this is only an invention of incompetent author? Regards Dariusz

  2. Yes, research might be incomplete and it is not clear how exactly levels of pollution, genetics of the individual and other factors interact. Here are a few references:
    --Long-term exposure to ambient fine particulate pollution induces insulin resistance and mitochondrial alteration in adipose tissue.
    --Diabetes Incidence and Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution A cohort study
    --Environmental Chemicals and Type 2 Diabetes: An Updated Systematic Review of the Epidemiologic Evidence
    --Long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution and insulin resistance in children: results from the GINIplus and LISAplus birth cohorts
    --Traffic-Related Air Pollution Effect on Fast Glycemia of Aged Obese Type 2 Diabetic Mice
    --Epidemiological and experimental links between air pollution and type 2 diabetes

  3. OK Environmental Chemicals and Type 2 Diabetes. Recent study find: "these findings confirm that POP concentrations in plasma may be higher in diabetic than in non-diabetic individuals. No association was however seen between POP concentrations and markers of insulin resistance/secretion in non-diabetic individuals" .
    Your link: Environmental Chemicals and Type 2 Diabetes
    "Long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution may contribute to the development of diabetes, especially in individuals with a healthy lifestyle, nonsmokers, and physically active individuals" and yor "Keeping Pollutants Out with Exercise" dont need comment.
    Risk of incident diabetes in relation to long-term exposure to fine particulate matter in Ontario, Canada day have Odds Ratio 1.11 (11%) i dont think so this is strong evidence. Other study find only assocation only in female And other
    didnt find any association.
    As you see the results in each study are very different so you cant that air polution cause diabetes we dont have any strong evidence. One i see study (dont have link) where they study assocation air polution in china (most dirty air in the world) with epidemic diabetes and they asume that western food and obesity play crucial role. However in air polution they think that smog covert uvb and block Vitamin D absorbtion where low lvl can play role in diabetes development. In the other hand in Japan they have dirty air too but ratio of diabetes is the lowest in the world like CVD stroke and cancer. I for example leave near Cracov 3rd place in the most dirty air city in Europe and in my country place where i leave have the lowest ratio of diabetes too. So for this moment from research not my opinion we have inconlusive proof of correlation in diabetes and air polution. Regards

  4. Yes, it is not conclusive. Too many things to consider. Here's genetic risk world map. And more references claiming that "patients with diabetes mellitus were more than twice as likely to be admitted to hospital with heart-disease-related pathology when atmospheric PM10 increased by 10 μg/m"

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