Delhi Half Marathon 2018: Health Risks of Running In Polluted Air and Precautions Marathoners Should Take
Running (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

Delhi’s dwindling air quality continues to be a problem as new reports suggest that it has slipped to the “very poor” category. In the last couple of days, a combination of factors such as weather conditions, stubble burning and Dussehra festivities have caused the city’s air quality to deteriorate. Data from the Central Pollution Control Board has revealed that eight out of the 10 polluted places in the country are in Delhi. And with only weeks to go before Diwali, evidentially, the air pollution may only get worse from here on. The Delhi Half Marathon for the year 2018 is on October 21. Delhi Air Pollution Emergency Plan.

While the Indian capital will host the certified IAAF Gold Level event with around 35,000 runners participating, medical and environmental organisations are asking for the event to be postponed due to the high pollution levels as it may impair the health of runners.

“We are not opposed to the marathon, but it is a fact that competitive events should not be held when air quality is very poor,” said K.K. Aggarwal, president of Heart Care Foundation of India, according to Indian newspaper The Hindu. Air Pollution Can Cause Diabetes Even At 'Safe' Levels Says Study.

Marathoners who are preparing for the run may have to keep some important points about running in polluted air in mind. Here’s what you need to know.

Air Pollution and Exercising

When you perform any kind of intense physical activity like running or exercising, your lungs labour to take in more air and oxygen into your lungs. But the environment matters. If you are in a pristine environment where the air is clean, you breathe in cleaner air and more oxygen. However, if the air around you is polluted, your lungs will draw in large amounts of atmospheric pollutants.

Since you also breathe more through your mouth than your nose when you perform laborious tasks. Nose has certain filters like fine hair to trap in some of the pollutants from reaching the bloodstream. No such protective mechanism exists if you breathe through your mouth.

The more pollutants you breathe in, the more health hazards you experience.

How Pollution Affects Your Body

According to UrbanEmissions.info, The polluted air of Delhi contains harmful pollutants like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and ozone. Apart from these gases, it also contains copious amounts of greenhouses gases like carbon dioxide and soot from the stubble burning. This deadly cocktail can cause health risks if inhaled long term.

While regular exercise is good for our health, performing any kind of intense physical activity in a polluted environment can affect the lung and heart health and impair cognitive functions.

Exposure to air pollution can be bad for people with lung conditions like asthma and COPD. It can cause flare-ups of symptoms and create breathing problems. Long-term exposure to air pollution can also shorten life expectancy.

Tips For Running The Marathon During Pollution

If you are gearing up for the Marathon, here are some of the useful tips you should keep in mind according to a manual published in the journal Breathe.

Use the Space Correctly: While exercising or running, choose areas that are greener where there are low emission zones.

Keep Distance From Roads: Roads are inarguably the most-polluted space. So steer clear of roads as much as possible.

Move Away from Vehicles: Running behind vehicles that are emitting smoke could make you breathe the harmful gases. Try moving away from such vehicles.

Avoid Busy Areas: Places that are crowded are best avoided, especially roads that have buildings on either side. The polluted air tends to stay trapped between these areas. Avoid running along traffic signals as well.

Check Weather Forecast: Sunny days are worst for air pollution. Air on windy or rainy days tends to be a lot cleaner. Before you set out, check how the weather will be.

Check Air Quality Index: Runners should also check the air quality index for the day before they start out. Air pollution levels also depend on the place, the weather and the type of pollutant.

Avoid Rush Hours: It’s during rush hours that the pollution is at its peak. Avoid such times like the plague.

Use Face Masks: Don’t hesitate to use the face mask when you exercise or run. It will help minimise the amount of pollutants you inhale.

Run in the Morning or at Night: Morning times and night times are better because the pollution levels are much lower then.

There’s no need to swear off running or exercising if you live in a polluted city. That’s because health experts believe that exercising in a polluted environment has lesser health risks than not exercising at all. So polish your running shoes and tie up your laces and get, set, GO!