There’s no denying the health benefits of running, and nothing is more invigorating than an early morning run. It’s the best way to start your day, as it boosts your circulation, improves your focus through the day, and really wakes you up! Unfortunately, with high pollution levels in India’s metros like Delhi and Mumbai, running in the early morning hours during the winter months will also give you an increased risk of chronic respiratory disorders and other ailments. So, why is that early morning running is just hazardous in winter?
Pollution Levels In Indian Cities
“Delhi’s PM (particulate matter)2.5 levels are almost always at least 15 times higher than the safe limit prescribed by the WHO, and cities like Mumbai don’t fare much better, with routine air quality readings of very unhealthy”
Delhi has gained notoriety for its high pollution levels, with extremely high levels of PM (particulate matter) 10, as well as smaller particulate pollutants like PM2.5, which pose an even higher risk because of their ability to penetrated deep into the lungs. Delhi’s PM2.5 levels are almost always at least 15 times higher than the safe limit prescribed by the WHO. Other cities like Mumbai don’t fare much better, with air quality readings routinely reading ‘very unhealthy’! But this is a year round phenomenon, so why are doctors more against early morning running or outdoor exercising during winter?
Early Morning Running In Winter
“During the winter months, smog has become a daily phenomenon in most cities and the air is filled with high concentrations of fumes, particulate matter, and ground level ozone, greatly increasing the risk of chronic respiratory ailments like bronchitis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease”
When you run in cold air, your respiratory tubes contract, restricting air flow to some extent. This is why you will feel like you need to breathe a lot harder than usual. This difficulty breathing can be far more serious for individuals with chronic respiratory conditions like asthma or bronchitis.
While the cold winter air normally doesn’t pose much of a threat to healthy adults, the problem in cities is compounded by pollution and smog. During the winter months, smog has become a daily phenomenon in most cities and the air is filled with high concentrations of fumes, suspended particulate matter, and ground level ozone. The smallest particles are believed to pose the greatest threat as they can be inhaled deep into the lungs. Both Delhi and Mumbai have dangerously high levels of such pollutants. Under these conditions, early morning runners are likely to experience irritation of the respiratory tract, increased coughing, breathlessness, and wheezing. Exposing yourself to such high levels of pollution on a regular basis can also predispose you to chronic respiratory ailments like bronchitis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, and so on.
What Should You Do?
“If you do have a choice, always opt for quieter routes that are relatively free from heavy traffic. Try to delay your exercise or walking routine outdoors for sometime later in the day, such as in the evening, as this is when smog begins to lift.”
The one thing you certainly shouldn’t do is to use this warning against early morning running and outdoor exercise to junk your fitness routine. Instead, joggers, cyclists, and walkers should be more cautious and sensible with their activity timings and choice of location. If you do have a choice, always opt for quieter routes that are relatively free from heavy traffic. Try to delay your exercise or walking routine outdoors for sometime later in the day, such as in the evening, as this is when smog begins to lift. The best thing you can do would be to stay in the ‘safe’ indoor zone, exercising either at home or in a gym, on a treadmill or with any other exercise machinery, as you see fit.
Whatever you do, don’t give up on your fitness routine. If exercising indoors or running at any other time is not an option for some reason, just keep at it because the health benefits of running will still outweigh the risks. Just listen to your body and if your experience any signs of discomfort seek treatment immediately.
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