As research results show, increased morbidity and mortality from various types of diseases, especially cardiovascular diseases, is associated with air pollution. Therefore, in conditions of increased smog concentration, it is recommended to limit physical activity or modify it.
Smog is an atmospheric phenomenon which develops when environmental conditions are favourable. It occurs when harmful chemical compounds produced by human activity are released into the atmosphere. The process of smog formation is largely dependent on environmental conditions, the prevailing weather in a given area and the lay of the land.
There are two types of smog. One is British, also known as London smog. The biggest influence on its formation is the inversion of temperatures. The closer to the ground they are, the higher they are. In an inversion, the air that is higher up is warmer than the air near the ground. If there are high emissions, the layer of warm air creates a barrier that prevents pollutants from rising, which in turn leads to their concentration and the formation of smog.
The second type of smog is the Los Angeles type, also called white or photochemical smog. This type of smog is most common in summer, mainly in regions with high temperatures and lots of sunshine. As a result of sunlight falling on pollutants that are emitted into the atmosphere, a mixture of harmful chemical compounds is formed. In our country we have to deal with photochemical smog in the summer, hot, sunny days. It most often occurs in big cities such as Krakow, Warsaw, Wroclaw and Poznan.
How does smog affect our body? It is a direct threat, both to health and life. In its composition there are various chemical compounds having negative influence on our organism. One of them is nitrogen dioxide, which is a highly toxic brown gas. It reduces resistance to infections and irritates the respiratory tract. In addition, it contributes to an increase in the incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Smog also contains sulfur oxide. It is a colorless, toxic gas with an irritating odor that irritates the skin, conjunctiva and mucous membranes and causes respiratory diseases. Another component of smog is carbon dioxide – a colorless, odorless, dangerous gas. It causes dizziness, shortness of breath and weakness. As its concentration increases indoors, the risk of death from hypoxia increases.
Ozone, a tri-atomic oxygen molecule, is also present in smog. It leads to irritation of the respiratory tract, which is manifested by shallow, fast breathing, coughing, fatigue and headaches. The last component of smog is benzene. As a result of its action there is a reduced production of blood cells, which leads to a weakening of the immune system and anaemia, and in extreme cases also to leukaemia.
The body during physical activity, during which the metabolic rate, ventilation and breathing are accelerated, absorbs high doses of compounds found in the air – also dangerous. Athletes inhale as much as 10-20 times more air during training than people who do not exercise.
To avoid the health consequences of breathing in smog during exercise, it’s best to do workouts indoors with good air filtration. Alternatively, schedule outdoor sports activities in the early or very late hours of the day. Never train against the wind. A standard pace and moderate effort is best.
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