When you exercise, you breathe in a bigger volume of air – which also means that you inhale a larger number of unhealthy particles in outdoor or indoor air. When you rest, you normally take 12-15 breaths per minute. One breath consists of around half a litre of air. During exercise, your intake of air rises from 6-7 litres per minute to up to 100-120 litres per minute.
Exercising outdoors, walking, running, playing tennis or performing some other outdoor training activity, means you have much less control over the air you breathe. If you live in a pollution hotspot you should avoid exercising near roads where the traffic is heavy. The requirements for creating a healthy indoor environment will vary, depending on where you live. Indoor air pollution can exceed acceptable levels for fine particles a hundredfold. When particles and other substances pass into indoor air, they combine in new ways with the substances and particles already present inside buildings. These combinations can be much more aggressive and, therefore, more harmful to us.
High-quality filters in a building’s ventilation system can filter and eliminate a significant proportion of the airborne particles originating from outdoors. And an air purifier can be used to remove pollutants from indoor sources. If these measures are taken, the indoor air quality (IAQ) can be improved considerably, even in places where the outdoor air is heavily polluted.
Clean air has a positive effect on our bodies and immune system, reducing the risk of inflammation and asthma. And even if you cannot control the air quality, for example, in your local gym, you can let your body rest from the exposure of air pollution by installing an air purifier in your home or at your place of work. Stationary or mobile air purifiers are the ideal complement for existing ventilation systems where the aim is to clean indoor air effectively.
We recently provided Swedish Olympic athletes with a brief guide to help them better understand how the air they breathe affects their bodies and their performance, and how they can protect themselves from air pollution. Although the guide is intended for elite athletes, the same principles also apply to “ordinary” people who exercise on a more moderate level.