The best advice for avoiding the health impacts of wildfire smoke is stay indoors. But bicyclists, runners, outdoor adventurers and anyone used to getting their fix outside of the house may find it hard to stay put after several days of bad air quality.
First, a word of caution: sensitive groups such as older adults, children or people with health problems should adhere to safety standards set by public health officials. Stay home or exercise at the gym! For active, otherwise healthy adults, bad air quality doesn't have to mean switching to the treadmill.
Here are some tips for staying active outdoors, even when the air quality is poor:
Wear a respirator mask
If the outdoors is calling you to run (despite a high AQI score), wear a mask. The fact that you're breathing deeper, faster and harder while jogging means you will inhale considerably more pollutants than someone just out for a stroll. Puraka makes a high-quality, lightweight pm2.5 mask that filters most smoke pollution including pm2.5 while allowing you to still breath easily.
Don’t jog too fast, and stay consistent
When the air quality is bad; forget about wind sprints or interval training. Keep your pace consistent and avoid bursts of exertion that could cause your breathing rate to periodically speed up.
If your area is suffering from bad air quality caused by forest fire smoke or other forms of particulate pollution, keep an eye on the current air quality index. Indices are updated hourly, so you can plan your jogging or other outdoor activities during the times when the AQI is lower (which corresponds to less particulates in the air).
Exercise in the morning
The majority of pollutants are generated during the day, which makes evening and daytime hours the worst periods to exercise. Daytime heat also increases the concentration of airborne pollutants. If running outdoors needs to happen daily, try doing it early in the morning.
Eat antioxidant-rich foods
Antioxidants can help your body rid itself of toxic substances. Foods which are rich in vitamins C & E like green vegetables and fruits are high in antioxidants, and should be a staple of your diet if you're exercising when the air quality is poor. Still... don't use this as a replacement for a respirator mask or jogging during non-peak times.
The next time the AQI is high but your routine can't wait, follow these tips to keep your lungs healthy for a lifetime of outdoor exercise. If you normally jog with a canine friend, be sure to keep them out of the smokey air. Here are some tips to keep them occupied on the most polluted days.