Air pollution is scary. We would go so far as to call horror film scary. Imagine this: you could just kill yourself by just breathing – save yourself, stop breathing, stop breathing! from the public. For example, is air pollution so severe that you should avoid running under certain conditions? Fortunately, scientific research has an answer on this point. "A study conducted by Audrey de Nazelle at Imperial College looked at this specific question as to when the disadvantage of exposure to pollution outweighs the exercise benefits," says Andrew Grieve, senior air quality analyst at King's College London. "The study found that pollution in London and other European cities is so low that running and cycling are always beneficial."
However, if you want to avoid running through heavily polluted areas (and who can not?), Drink Energy Brand Tenzing has teamed up with Strava and the Environmental Research Team at King's College London to help. This collaboration has resulted in a tool that displays the current air quality on each route a runner plans in London, or the level of air pollution on a London run that he tracks on Strava. (It's limited to the capital because it relies on data from the team at King's College that records air pollution every 25 yards in Greater London.)
The free tool is available if you use the Clean Air Visit the Run Club website with a smartphone and once you have given permission to access your Strava account, a clean air score will be added for all runs in London.
You can also draw routes by tapping on a map to add waypoints and get a live air quality score. What you will soon realize is that high traffic areas are best avoided.
"It's mainly major roads that have the most pollution in cities," says Grieve. "If you zoom out and look at the London Pollution Map, you can choose the road network as the highest. It looks similar in most cities.
And Grieve's own research shows that walking along a polluted thoroughfare has implications. "We did a study a few years ago that looked at the lung function of COPD patients [a lung condition] before and after a walk down Oxford Street compared to walking through Hyde Park," says Grieve. "We found that those who walked along Oxford Street had less lung function than those who rounded Hyde Park. A clear physiological effect for a higher burden of pollution.
One problem we found with the tool was that our air pollution levels never dropped below the high fair category. So it would make a big difference to find routes that increase the rating of 1
We asked Grieve what good it would be to choose a less loaded route than a more heavily loaded route. "Apart from the Oxford Street study, it's difficult to quantify the health benefits of an eco-friendly route at an individual level compared to a busy route, because everyone is different," he says. "We can say that off-road pollution is generally 50% lower on busy roads and even lower in parks."
Try the Clean Air Tool (mobile only)