International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 520–527 | Cite as

Relationship Between Air Quality and Outdoor Exercise Behavior in China: a Novel Mobile-Based Study

  • Liang Hu
  • Li Zhu
  • Yaping Xu
  • Jiaying Lyu
  • Kellie Imm
  • Lin Yang



Based on data collected from an exercise app, the study aims to provide empirical evidence on the relationship between air quality and patterns of outdoor exercise in China.


Objective outdoor exercise data spanning 160 days were collected from 153 users of an exercise app, Tulipsport in China. Each exercise mode (running, biking, and walking, respectively) was organized into five air quality categories based on Air Quality Index (AQI): excellent, good, mild pollution, moderate pollution, and serious pollution. Key parameters of each app user were calculated and analyzed: the total number of exercise bouts, the average duration, and the average distance of each exercise mode in each air quality category.


Multivariate analyses of variance indicate that the users were less likely to participate in outdoor running, biking, and walking (F = 24.16, p < .01, Wilk’s Λ = 0.64) as levels of air pollution increased. However, there is no difference in terms of average distance and duration of exercise across different air pollution categories.


People’s participation in outdoor exercise is impeded by air pollution severity, but they stick to their exercise routines once exercise is initiated. Although people should protect themselves from health damages caused by exercising under pollution, the decreases in physical activity associated with air pollution may also pose an indirect risk to public health. The interactive relationship between air quality, exercise, and health warrants more empirical and interdisciplinary explorations.


Air quality Outdoor exercise Mobile app China 



The authors would like to thank Mr. Yun Lin and Mr. Yao Zhao for their assistance in collecting and processing the data.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


This study was supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, the Zhejiang Provincial Social Science Funding-Zhijiang Young Scholar Project (13ZJQN031YB), and the Philosophy and Social Science project of the State Sports General Administration (2138SS15025).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in the current study are in accordance with the ethical standards of the Zhejiang University ethical committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liang Hu
    • 1
  • Li Zhu
    • 1
  • Yaping Xu
    • 2
  • Jiaying Lyu
    • 3
  • Kellie Imm
    • 4
  • Lin Yang
    • 5
  1. 1.College of EducationZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of Physical and Art EducationZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina
  3. 3.School of ManagementZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina
  4. 4.Department of SurgeryWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  5. 5.Department of EpidemiologyMedical University of ViennaViennaAustria

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