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Riding in smog

Old 10-13-21, 10:19 PM
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Riding in smog

Would one hour ride in smog (one of the worst air pollution cities) offset the health benefits of riding a bike?

We have smog all the time time so there's no point finding the best time to ride out.

I have tried indoor-only spinning with elliptical bike for at least one month but have trouble finding the motivation doing more than 15 minutes per day. My resting blood pressure and heart rate got worse like 140/90 despite having normal BMI (19).

There's a possibility we might move outside the city in a year or two (a cheap small place we already own) but ironically, it's near an active volcano and the place gets "volcanic smog" from time to time But definitely better than being in the city.
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Old 10-14-21, 08:04 AM
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That's a tough one man. I don't have to deal with smog in rural Alabama. I think I would have to know just how bad the smog is and how much it effected me personally. I would say that if you can feel a significant difference in your breathing after being outside an hour doing some other activity VS a day when you were mostly indoors, then I would personally not want to commute by cycle in such a place. You also have to ask yourself if it's that bad, then how bad is it even inside or how bad is it over time even if I limit being outside. IMHO all good reasons to get somewhere cleaner ASAP. Good luck.
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Old 10-14-21, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
Would one hour ride in smog (one of the worst air pollution cities) offset the health benefits of riding a bike?
Sure does add a dangerous aspect to it, even if one can't find a "balance" of the factors.

Used to run distances, years ago. In the place where I lived at the time, smog levels could get severe. Dangerously so. (Was basically causing "acid rain" in the lungs, when bad enough.) Had to avoid the worst days altogether. Had to seriously tone down the effort on risky days. Found other high-cardio exercise I could do in heavily-filtered indoor spaces. Wasn't quite the same, but frankly it was the only way I found to effectively get the needed cardio training while avoiding most of the nastiness of the crappy (unfiltered) outdoor air.

I'd be very careful, when the news is indicating "dangerous" levels for the air quality.
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Old 10-14-21, 10:17 AM
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My cardiovascular performance definitely improved due to cycling even if did it mostly in the city.

However, I do worry of getting cancer from the pollutants. Often I get it directly from the vehicles around me due to dense city traffic, I can literally feel their exhaust in my face.

Maybe cycling isn't a good/healthy workout for high pollution cities?
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Old 10-14-21, 10:35 AM
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You do what you gotta do.

Would you be happy and feel healthy if you stayed inside and did nothing? Is inside air any more healthier than outside air? I doubt that it's any less polluted unless your homes and businesses have a separate source of clean air.
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Old 10-14-21, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
Maybe cycling isn't a good/healthy workout for high pollution cities?
You'll definitely work the cardio.

And in dangerous levels of smog and airborne particulates you'll definitely be sucking in vastly more of that stuff than you otherwise might.

Might want to speak with your doctor, if really concerned. I'd be very cautious, on the "bad" days; look for something else to do, indoors, in a spot that's known for its extreme filtration of the air ... if you can. Beats skipping cardio, IMO.
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Old 10-14-21, 12:39 PM
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It would be great if you could get transportation out of the city to ride, even once or twice a week.
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Old 10-14-21, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
Would one hour ride in smog (one of the worst air pollution cities) offset the health benefits of riding a bike?

We have smog all the time time so there's no point finding the best time to ride out.
...
I have tried indoor-only spinning with elliptical bike for at least one month .
If you have smog outside all the time, then isn't that same smog air inside your house too (unless maybe your house is really well sealed and you're running a HEPA H13 or H14 filter non-stop). You're probably breathing it no matter what, so you might as well ride outside.
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Old 10-14-21, 01:56 PM
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Forgot to mention we use indoor air cleaner with active filtration against pollutants and airborne virus / bacteria. But we turn it off during the day since we don't use air conditioning in the day. The air defnitely feels much cleaner in our apartment than in the street even if we don't use air cleaner.

Down in the street, my face mask would become become visibly darkened with soot around the nostrils and mouth after only riding for 1 hr. The skin around my eyes are also darkened by soot and dirt. It gets to my light colored jersey as well if I wipe my eyes with the longs sleeves of my jersey.

Some of the riders here are using Kn-95 masks with cartridge filters to ride. It looks a bit like gas mask. I have tried it but feels way too hot and I feel like having a heat stroke and light-headed when using it in our >90F and humid climate.
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Old 10-14-21, 04:28 PM
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Personally I wouldn't worry about it.
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Old 10-14-21, 05:09 PM
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lots of "opinion" here.

there is relatively little actual medical research on this; but just about every reputable source says to avoid prolonged intense exercise when air quality is very poor. i used to jog in beijing, until i got tired of watering eyes and my tissues looking like they'd been used to clean a chimney. literally grey-black snot.

mayo clinic:
Timing your workouts carefully. Avoid outdoor physical activity or reduce the intensity and duration of your outdoor exercise when an air quality alert has been issued. Air pollution levels tend to be highest near midday or in the afternoon, so try to avoid outdoor exercise during these times of the day.
an interesting study by brazilian researchers (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30018189/

  1. Regardless of the air quality, exercise contributes to the improvement of health for the first 15 minutes of activity.
  2. In a clean air environment, the more time spent exercising (0-90 min), the healthier it is for your body.
  3. When exercising in a polluted environment for more than 15 minutes, the positive impact of activity will gradually be offset by the negative impact of air pollution.
  4. When exercising in a polluted environment for more than 75 minutes, the side effects caused by air pollution will exceed the positive effects of exercise and begin to cause harm to the body
nytimes "ask well"
...In fact, working out is likely to amplify the dangers from air pollution, scientists believe, since exercise requires we breathe more. By most estimates, we draw in 10 to 20 times more air when we strenuously work out than when we sit still.

If that air is polluted, we get an outsize dose of toxins. According to a 2012 review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, people who exercised moderately for an hour in a lab room containing diesel fumes wound up with far more chemical particles embedded deep within their lungs than when they spent the same amount of time resting in the polluted air.

The potential health impacts are worrisome. Studies show that athletes who spend long hours in ice rinks filled with exhaust from Zamboni machines, such as figure skaters and hockey players, have unusually high rates of asthma compared to other athletes.

Even a single instance of working out in polluted air may be unhealthy. In a 2005 study, British researchers asked 30 healthy volunteers to ride exercise bikes for 30 minutes while breathing piped-in diesel exhaust. Afterward, the volunteers showed abnormal changes in the size and function of their veins and arteries, the researchers reported, a condition that could be a harbinger of cardiovascular disease.
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Old 10-14-21, 05:19 PM
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Still the question is how much less polluted is the air inside your home or where you might do indoor exercise. And home or business HVAC systems are not going to remove the NOx and SO2 gases that irritate lungs that is the major components of smog. All they remove are fine particulate matter that may or may not be irritating.

I've always believed the air in homes is more unhealthy than outside. So without testing and comparisons to each, it's just what keeps you sane and feeling healthy... whether or not you actually are.
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Old 10-14-21, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Still the question is how much less polluted is the air inside your home or where you might do indoor exercise. And home or business HVAC systems are not going to remove the NOx and SO2 gases that irritate lungs that is the major components of smog. All they remove are fine particulate matter that may or may not be irritating.

I've always believed the air in homes is more unhealthy than outside. So without testing and comparisons to each, it's just what keeps you sane and feeling healthy... whether or not you actually are.
no, that's not the question really. it's well known that indoor air quality is often worse than outdoor.

the question is "how much more air moves through your lungs exercising hard than sitting still." up to 20 times more, according to some sources.

in all likelihood, the healthiest thing in very polluted environments, assuming no access to properly filtered indoor air, is relatively low levels of activity, outdoors.
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Old 10-14-21, 05:44 PM
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I doubt the OP wants to do low activity cycling for just a few minutes at a time whether indoors or outdoors.
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Old 10-15-21, 01:19 AM
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Originally Posted by mschwett View Post
no, that's not the question really. it's well known that indoor air quality is often worse than outdoor.

the question is "how much more air moves through your lungs exercising hard than sitting still." up to 20 times more, according to some sources.

in all likelihood, the healthiest thing in very polluted environments, assuming no access to properly filtered indoor air, is relatively low levels of activity, outdoors.
That really sucks. Without exercise, my blood pressure shoots up. Driving out of the city is impossible, far too costly to be a daily routine.

I guess I'll just have to deal with it. I've been doing aerobic exercises outdoor in our city streets in one form or another since I was 12 years old. The damage has been done.

Last edited by cubewheels; 10-15-21 at 03:52 AM.
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Old 10-15-21, 05:14 AM
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Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
That really sucks. Without exercise, my blood pressure shoots up. Driving out of the city is impossible, far too costly to be a daily routine.
For straight cardio, in my experience a decent rowing machine is one of the harshest judges of a person's cardio abilities, and one of the best ways to improve it. Plenty of gyms have them. And they're small enough to be stored when not in use, then brought out to the end of a room, deck or other space for an hour's worth of cardio when needed. It's another piece of equipment, sure, but it's one of the best activities for keeping your lungs in fighting trim.

If the air outside is often dangerous to breathe, then on crummy days it might be worth having a rower inside, at home or the gym.

Of course, equipment's not really needed to goose the cardio a bit. Can easily incorporate a range of bodyweight exercises together in a circuit, and you'll find your cardio jumping into another gear. Say, 100+ pushups, burpees, mountain climbers and a couple other exercises, crafted into a circuit with a handful of each ... and keep going until your cardio's rolling. A little elbow room, workout clothes, a good pair of shoes, and you're set.
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Old 10-15-21, 07:18 AM
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If I had no choice but to live and ride in an area with smog or heavy pollution, I'd be riding around with a mask such as this

https://respro.com/store/product/techno-mask
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Old 10-15-21, 07:46 AM
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well, being a resident of western nevada i get piles and piles of smoke from the california fires each summer. we get a lot of smoke here at times, really sucks. my "scientific method" is that if i cannot see the ski trails on mount rose then i don't ride outdoors. indoor riding is not fun but i'd rather breath in the stale air that what is outside, even if the garage door had to open when i parked the car after work.
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Old 10-15-21, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by SapInMyBlood View Post
If I had no choice but to live and ride in an area with smog or heavy pollution, I'd be riding around with a mask such as this

https://respro.com/store/product/techno-mask
I did tried it once but nearly gave me a heat stroke. Feels way too hot in >90F riding temperatures.

Been thinking of one day, moving up to the cooler mountains. Even a small cheap house would do.
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Old 10-15-21, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
For straight cardio, in my experience a decent rowing machine is one of the harshest judges of a person's cardio abilities, and one of the best ways to improve it. Plenty of gyms have them. And they're small enough to be stored when not in use, then brought out to the end of a room, deck or other space for an hour's worth of cardio when needed. It's another piece of equipment, sure, but it's one of the best activities for keeping your lungs in fighting trim.

If the air outside is often dangerous to breathe, then on crummy days it might be worth having a rower inside, at home or the gym.

Of course, equipment's not really needed to goose the cardio a bit. Can easily incorporate a range of bodyweight exercises together in a circuit, and you'll find your cardio jumping into another gear. Say, 100+ pushups, burpees, mountain climbers and a couple other exercises, crafted into a circuit with a handful of each ... and keep going until your cardio's rolling. A little elbow room, workout clothes, a good pair of shoes, and you're set.
We have good hospital-grade air cleaner and elliptical bike for cardio but I just can't seem to stay on it for more than 15 minutes due to boredom.

I probably need to set aside time to find someplace to move. Can be cheap and small, don't matter, it's only me and my mom anyway.
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Old 10-22-21, 12:57 PM
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I am guessing you are talking about Manilla. I have to admit I have not been back in 10 years, I can only imagine it worse. I certainly would not want to be doing too much any where too here makati, I would be looking to get out side the city. Stay away from any factories, plan on being on the up wind side of the city if you can. Rain always help clean the air. It is a very politicly charged subject and trying to get objective data etc is near impossible. What is clear is Thai is well above WHO recommendation. In general if I recall correctly heading south towards Batangus always helps.

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Old 10-23-21, 02:23 AM
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Originally Posted by JulianY View Post
I am guessing you are talking about Manilla. I have to admit I have not been back in 10 years, I can only imagine it worse. I certainly would not want to be doing too much any where too here makati, I would be looking to get out side the city. Stay away from any factories, plan on being on the up wind side of the city if you can. Rain always help clean the air. It is a very politicly charged subject and trying to get objective data etc is near impossible. What is clear is Thai is well above WHO recommendation. In general if I recall correctly heading south towards Batangus always helps.

Julian Y
It just got worse after they eased the Covid lockdown!

I usually follow a route that is less polluted in Manila. Mostly around the rich neighborhoods in Makati and Bonifacio, Taguig. Lots of trees, hills, light to medium traffic so I assume, it's not as bad as the rest of the city. I've even structured my efforts around the severity of pollution along these routes. The least polluted sections is where I hit it hard and do recovery intervals in the highly polluted sections. It gets very mundane and quite boring after a while though but really have no choice. I prefer cycling over blood pressure meds.

We do have a cheap house in Batangas but due to problems, we'll very likely sell it instead. We never actually got the chance to live there due to work. Me and my mom is still planning to move outside the city but won't be at least 5 year and maybe never. I think I'll just have to deal with it. We have an old relative who rides his bike regularly around Manila and outside the city for many decades and he's around 80 years old now. Perhaps, the health benefit of exercise may outweigh the risk of air pollution and maybe I'd be lucky with my health, who knows.

It is a very politicly charged subject and trying to get objective data etc is near impossible. What is clear is Thai is well above WHO recommendation.
Yeah, the readings are always good but visibility is poor due to smog!
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