Physical activity in polluted air affects cardiovascular and respiratory system Sep 13, 2018
Michelle Laeremans ()
Dr Michelle Laeremans obtained her PhD title with a study about cardiorespiratory effects of physical activity and urban air pollution in Europe. Together with the Transportation Research Institute (IMOB), VITO and CMK, she discovered that our cardiovascular and respiratory system immediately responds to the combination of physical activity and air pollution.
People need to be more active to increase their health. That is a common knowledge. However, being active in an urban environment may imply increased exposure to air pollution which might partly offset the health benefits. Thus, to improve public health we first need to know what physical activity in polluted air does to our bodies.
Dr Laeremans and her team set up a science data collection campaign were more than 100 participants from Antwerp, Barcelona and London collected information about their physical activity level and exposure to air pollution. Dr Laeremans also organized health evaluation sessions where different early physiological markers were assessed. She then looked for associations between these markers, physical activity and air pollution.
The results of the study show that our cardiovascular and respiratory system immediately responds to the combination of physical activity and air pollution. It is therefore important to understand how these effects impact out long term health. Also, it is important to pay special attention to respiratory health, because the study showed that the lung function improves with physical activity in low air pollution concentrations, but that this beneficial effect decreases when air pollution levels increases. Dr Laeremans concludes that other research is needed to further characterize these effects.