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Exercise Can Benefit the Heart, Even In Areas with High Air Pollution Levels

Sep, 2020

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Extensive research has established that regular physical activity can lower the blood pressure. However, a new research suggests that this is still the case in areas with high air pollution levels.

The World Health Organisation estimates that around 4.2 million deaths occur every year from heart disease, stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, and lung cancer. Moreover, nearly 90% of the global population lives in areas with unhealthy air quality. Prolonged outdoor activity in these places increases the intake of pollutants in the air which leads to harmful health outcomes. A team of researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong has found that combining high physical activity and less exposure to air pollutants lowered the risk of hypertension, and exercise continued to positively impact even in case of exposure to high air pollution levels.

The team evaluated data of over 140,000 Taiwanese adults without hypertension and followed their progress for a period of 5 years and categorized physical activity of each participants on a weekly basis as highly active, moderately active, and inactive. Level of exposure to fine particulate matter was categorized as high, moderate, and low. The most commonly used air pollution indicator is PM2.5, and the indicator for high blood pressure was 150/90 mm Hg. The results from the study showed that participants who were in the highly active category and exposed to low pollution levels were at a lower risk of developing hypertension. Whereas, those who were inactive and exposed to high levels of air pollution were at a higher risk of developing hypertension. Risk of incident hypertension was found to increase by 38% with every increase in the PM2.5 levels, and the risk lowered by 6% with increase in physical activity.

Physical activity was found to be beneficial irrespective of the pollution levels. Those in the moderate physical activity group had a 4% lower risk of hypertension compared with those who were inactive. The risk dropped by 13% for those people were highly active.

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