Air pollution cancels out positive effects of exercise for over 60s

Air pollution cancels out positive effects of exercise for over 60s

A new study found that, ladies who are pregnant and are living in a habitat where there is enough air pollution during their pregnancy can effect their child during birth.

Traffic pollution poses health risks for older people and unborn babies according to two separate studies published today.

Only policy makers have the power to protect women and unborn babies, argue researchers at the University of Edinburgh in a linked editorial. Researchers estimated average monthly concentrations of traffic-related pollutants by looking at the mother's home address at the time of birth. Average day and night-time road traffic noise levels were also estimated.

"Combined with evidence from other recent studies, our findings underscore that we can't really tolerate the levels of air pollution that we now find on our busy streets", said Fan Chung, professor of respiratory medicine and head of experimental studies medicine at Imperial College's National Heart and Lung Institute.

Using statistical models to analyse the data, the researchers found that increases in traffic related air pollutants - especially PM2.5 - were associated with 2% to 6% increased odds of low birth weight and 1% to 3% increased odds of being small for gestational age, even after taking account of road traffic noise. The annual mean concentration of PM2.5 in London in 2013 was 15.3 μg m3, and the authors estimate that reducing London's annual average PM2.5 concentration by 10% would prevent approximately 90 babies (3%) being born at term with low birth weight each year in London.

The project was also supported by the UK Natural Environment Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Department of Health.

A team, led by Imperial College London, used national birth registers to study more than 540,000 births in Greater London between 2006 and 2010.

"Exercise is crucial in reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke, but it seems unsafe levels of air pollution could be erasing these benefits in older adults", said Simon Gillespie, chief executive at the BHF.

All the participants, recruited through London's Royal Brompton Hospital, were either healthy or had a stable lung condition or non-progressing heart disease. On the other hand, those walking along Oxford Street saw little to no health benefits.

The study found everyone in the park group benefited, with lung capacity improving within an hour and persisting for 24 hours.

Physical measurements taken before and after the walks revealed the effects activity had on each volunteers cardiopulmonary health, including lung capacity, blood pressure, blood flow and arterial stiffness. Arteries became less stiff in those walking in Hyde Park with a maximum change from baseline of more than 24% in healthy and COPD volunteers, and more than 19% in heart disease patients.

Professor Fan Chung, who led the research reported in The Lancet journal, said: 'These findings are important as for many people, such as the elderly or those with chronic disease, very often the only exercise they can do is to walk. "Our research suggests that we might advise older adults to walk in green spaces, away from built-up areas and pollution from traffic".

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