World-class athletes competing in the upcoming Rio games will not only be battling for gold medals but also for clean air to breathe in the Brazilian city that suffers severe air pollution levels frequently exceeding WHO limits. India has managed to qualify 104 players for the Rio event, which include 24 sportspersons in Athletics category, 32 in Hockey, Shooting-12, Wrestling-8, Badminton-5, Table Tennis-4, Archery-4, Tennis-4, Boxing-3, Judo-3, Swimming-2, Weightlifting-2 and Rowing-1.
Blueair, an authority on indoor air cleaning technologies, says athletes exposed to air pollution risk not only impaired performance but also face longer-term health risks that exposure to polluted air brings. Blueair suggests the athletes get ‘clean air wise’ to avoid complications.
“Our advice to all athletes competing in Rio is to wear pollution face masks whenever possible to reduce the amount of toxic gases and pollutants they draw into their lungs in a city suffering severe air pollution caused by unfettered traffic and industrial activities,” said Bengt Rittri, Blueair founder and chief executive.
Bengt believes athletes as well as tourists visiting the Rio games should also seek out indoor havens where rooms are purified by air purifiers that efficiently remove the particle and chemical cocktails that build up in homes, offices and hotels.
A number of research studies have indicated that air pollution adversely affects athletic performance during both training and competition.
A 1986 study called ‘Implications of air pollution effects on athletic performance’ noted the air pollution impact during exercise is much higher than during rest because athletes inhale more deeply and also use both nasal and oral breathing. A human nose has natural filters that can help limit particles being drawn into the lungs, unlike when breathing through the mouth.
The U.S. Human Performance Resource Center has cited research saying that inhaling high levels of particulates may reduce exercise performance by as much as 24.4% during short-term, high-intensity cycling, for example.
Blueair believes there is today substantial scientific evidence that exposure to air pollution can spark health problems for anyone exposed to it. Dangers include damage to airways of the lungs, increased risk of asthma development, worsening of existing asthma or other lung conditions, greater risk of heart attacks and strokes, and increased risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.
“Everyone exercising outdoors in a major city should be worried and needs to be ‘air wise’ by checking air quality forecasts and using air monitoring apps such as the Blueair Friend on a daily basis,” said Bengt Rittri.
Blueair’s advice to athletes or anyone exercising while visiting Rio:
- Check air pollution levels regularly.
- Avoid areas suffering high air pollution.
- Make use of parks whenever possible when exercising and stay away from busy roads.
- Workout at times of the day when air quality is at its best.
- Exercise indoors, preferably with an indoor air purifier close to hand.