Published: Thu, December 07, 2017
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Air pollution cuts exercise gains in elders -Scientists

Air pollution cuts exercise gains in elders -Scientists

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

Previous BHF research has shown that long-term exposure to air pollution leads to inflammation in the blood vessels, including those supplying the heart, and promotes the buildup of fatty plaques in the linings of blood vessels, which can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke.

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

Air pollution in parts of central London is so bad it cancels out the benefits of doing exercise outdoors, according to new research by a charity. The benefits lasted a full day.

The researchers recruited 120 volunteers, 60 years and older, 80 of whom who had mild heart or lung disease. A few weeks later, they walked in the other location.

The researchers believe the findings would apply to other age groups.

Those who walked through Hyde Park experienced increased lung function, as well as a decrease in pulse wave velocity - a measure of stiffened arteries.

"Participants were randomly assigned by drawing numbered disks at random from a bag to do a two-hour walk either along a commercial street in London (Oxford Street) or in an urban park", the researchers wrote in their report, published in the Lancet medical journal.

An analysis of the data found that increases in traffic-related air pollutants were associated with 2% to 6% increased odds of low birth weight and 1% to 3% increased odds of being small for gestational age.


"For many people, such as the elderly or those with chronic disease, the only exercise they very often can do is to walk", added Fan Chung, Professor at the Imperial College London.

Scientists had said exposure to air pollution on city streets can counter the beneficial health effects of exercise in older adults. Chung also said the study indicated individuals should avoid busy, congested areas whenever possible and opt for green spaces instead. "We agree that this is good advice for recreational walking for people who can make that choice", he added.

Holgate, who was not involved in the new research, added that the sample sizes were small but that "the study deliberately selected COPD and ischemic heart disease at-risk patients, and. overall, the findings add to evidence of the importance of pollutant effects in vulnerable groups and have implications for pollution in general from vehicles (diesel, petrol, brakes and tires) as sources of pollutants".

Brooke Havlik, communications director for the New York-based nonprofit organization WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said that far from improving the situation, the U.S.is going backward at a federal level when it comes to combatting air pollution.

The findings suggest that air pollution from road traffic in London is adversely affecting foetal growth. People like outdoor exercise.

Tainio highlighted that encouraging people to exercise could in turn reduce pollution levels.

"While the research did not show an independent effect of noise on birth weight, we can not rule it out as a potential factor".

"However, it is important to remember the role that walking and cycling can play in helping to reduce air pollution and noise by removing motorized transport from the streets".

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