Air Pollution May Slightly Reduce Some Benefits Of Exercise For Old People

Air Pollution May Slightly Reduce Some Benefits Of Exercise For Old People

Walking is often recommended for older people, but the study from Imperial College London and Duke University in the United States of America suggests that the over-60s and those with lung and heart problems should steer clear of urban areas with heavy traffic.

The authors say more research is needed to confirm this finding.

The Lancet study included 119 adults aged 60 or over, including 40 healthy volunteers, 40 with stable COPD and 39 with stable ischaemic heart disease.

The volunteers were asked to take two-hour walks at midday in two London settings: a busy section of Oxford Street (which regularly exceeds worldwide air quality limits) and a relatively quiet, traffic-free area of Hyde Park. Some weeks later they did the other walk.

On Oxford Street, pollution including black carbon, nitrogen dioxide, and fine particulate matter regularly exceeds air quality limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

While the park exercise caused an improvement in lung capacity, arteries to become less stiff and blood flow increasing, walking along Oxford Street had little impact. However, the walk along Oxford Street led to a much smaller increase, and no increase later on.

In the healthy volunteers, the reduction in arterial stiffness resulting from the walk in Hyde Park persisted for up to 26 hours.

This effect was drastically reduced when walking along Oxford Street, however, with a maximum change in arterial stiffness of just 4.6% for healthy volunteers, 16% for those with COPD and 8.6% for heart disease.

"However, this should not be seen as a barrier to many older people for whom walking is the only exercise they do".

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"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.

They also suggest older adults walk in green spaces that are away from polluted or high-traffic areas. The study found no conclusive effect on babies health by noise pollution.

"I think it might well do". A study in younger people should be done, he said.

"Combined with evidence from other recent studies, our findings underscore that we can't really tolerate the levels of air pollution that we now find on our busy streets", said Fan Chung, professor of respiratory medicine and head of experimental studies medicine at Imperial College's National Heart and Lung Institute.

Ian Colbeck, professor of environmental science at Essex University, said the paper highlighted the risks to health by walking along polluted roads, for the over-60s with specific pre-existing medical conditions.

"About 17 million babies worldwide live in areas where outdoor air pollution is six times the recommended limit, and their brain development is at risk, the United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) said on Wednesday..." People like outdoor exercise.

In the United Kingdom, polluted air contributes to about 40,000 deaths a year, almost a quarter of them in London.

"Exercise is crucial in reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke, but it seems unsafe levels of air pollution could be erasing these benefits in older adults".

Going for a brisk walk is one of the best ways for older people to exercise and stay healthy - unless your route takes you along Oxford Street that is. I would say no. He said he believes the results of the new study, carried out in London, would be replicable in many North American and European cities.

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