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Exercise May Prevent High Blood Pressure, Even In Polluted Areas

Back of a Woman in Fitness Clothing, Adjusting Her Ponytail
Image by Jacob Lund / iStock
July 21, 2020

With many gyms and fitness studios still closed, some people are opting for outdoor exercise like running, walking, or biking. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), though, more than 91% of people live in areas with poor air quality1, which can affect heart health, 2Alzheimer's risk, and hair loss. Thankfully, a new study in the journal Circulation says regular exercise—even in polluted areas—may have protective health benefits.

Researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong studied 40,000 healthy adults in Taiwan for five years, on average. They found participants who engaged in moderate exercise were 4% less likely to have hypertension (or high blood pressure), and people who engaged in more intense exercise had a 13% lower risk than those who did not exercise at all. Both were true, regardless of pollution levels.

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While people who engaged in high physical activity and lived in low pollution areas had the lowest risk, exercise still benefited those with high exposure to pollution.

"Our findings indicate that regular physical activity is a safe approach for people living in relatively polluted regions to prevent high blood pressure," study author Xiang Qian Lao, Ph.D., said in a news release. "Exercise should be promoted even in polluted areas."

Outdoor exercises, like running and walking, tend to be accessible and affordable forms of fitness for many people, and now they can engage in those activities with a little less fear of pollution.

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