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Is it Safe to Walk or Run Outdoors When Air Pollution is High?

It is safe to run/walk outdoors even in high AQI environments, compared to indoors, but within limits

Bhavin Jankharia
5 min read
Is it Safe to Walk or Run Outdoors When Air Pollution is High?

Today, on the 8th of December 2022, the Air Quality Index (AQI) in my neighborhood in Mumbai is 318. This poor air quality is considered severe air pollution. Most of the Western world has AQIs less than 20-50…a value of 318 puts Mumbai on par with Delhi, considered among the most polluted cities in the world.

The general recommendation is not to exercise outdoors when the AQI is above 100 or 150, because the harder we breathe, the more we inhale PM2.5 and other noxious particles, leading to short and long term adverse consequences. Two recent articles have shown an increase in the incidence of heart attacks and deaths with both short-term and long-term exposure to air pollutants [1,2].

I went for a run two days ago when the AQI was above 300 and I just could not run as fast as usual. I have also developed a rasping cough over the last 2-3 days, which I believe is due to the marked increase in the poor air quality around me. I am wondering whether I should go for a run/walk this morning or exercise indoors.