Sports Medicine

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 223–249 | Cite as

The Health Effects of Exercising in Air Pollution

  • Luisa V. GilesEmail author
  • Michael S. Koehle
Review Article


The health benefits of exercise are well known. Many of the most accessible forms of exercise, such as walking, cycling, and running often occur outdoors. This means that exercising outdoors may increase exposure to urban air pollution. Regular exercise plays a key role in improving some of the physiologic mechanisms and health outcomes that air pollution exposure may exacerbate. This problem presents an interesting challenge of balancing the beneficial effects of exercise along with the detrimental effects of air pollution upon health. This article summarizes the pulmonary, cardiovascular, cognitive, and systemic health effects of exposure to particulate matter, ozone, and carbon monoxide during exercise. It also summarizes how air pollution exposure affects maximal oxygen consumption and exercise performance. This article highlights ways in which exercisers could mitigate the adverse health effects of air pollution exposure during exercise and draws attention to the potential importance of land use planning in selecting exercise facilities.


Ozone Lung Function Exercise Performance Lung Inflammation Maximal Oxygen Consumption 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors have no declared conflicts of interest. No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of KinesiologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Division of Sports MedicineUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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