SOURCE: University of Copenhagen, news release, March 30, 2015
WEDNESDAY, April 1, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The health benefits of exercise appear to outweigh the potential harm of air pollution, according to a new study from Denmark.
The findings show that air pollution should not prevent people who live in cities from going outdoors to exercise, said the researchers at the University of Copenhagen.
"Even for those living in the most polluted areas of Copenhagen, it is healthier to go for a run, a walk or to cycle to work than it is to stay inactive," Zorana Jovanovic Andersen, an associate professor at the university's Center for Epidemiology and Screening, said in a university news release.
"However, we would still advise people to exercise and cycle in green areas, parks, woods, with low air pollution and away from busy roads, when possible," she added.
It's important to note that the study's findings pertain to Denmark and other areas with similar air pollution levels. The findings may not hold true in cities with significantly higher air pollution levels, according to Andersen.
The study included more than 52,000 adults in Denmark's two largest cities. They were between 50 and 65 years old. Between 1993 and 1997, the participants reported on their outdoor physical activity levels. The researchers estimated the participants' exposure to air pollution based on traffic levels at their home addresses.
By 2010, 5,500 of the participants had died. There were 20 percent fewer deaths among those who exercised than among those who were inactive. This difference was seen even among those who lived in the most polluted areas of the two cities.
"Air pollution is often perceived as a barrier to exercise in urban areas. In the face of an increasing health burden due to rising physical inactivity and obesity in modern societies, our findings provide support for efforts in promoting exercise, even in urban areas with high pollution," Andersen said.
The study was published in the March issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
The American Lung Association explains how to protect yourself from air pollution.