Air Pollution
Buildings are seen during a moderately polluted day in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China, April 19, 2016. Reuters/Stringer

When smoke and pollution envelopes a city, even health conscious people choose to stay indoors, foregoing their desire to cycle and walk to stay healthy. However, a recent study comes as a relief for the health conscious.

Experts from Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit and Centre for Diet and Activity Research, along with researchers from University of East Anglia, are of the opinion that regular cycling and walking outweigh the negative impacts on health from pollution. University of Cambridge also said that benefits of physical activity outweigh pollution ill-effects, even in cities with high pollution levels.

The experts used epidemiological studies to create computer simulations. This helped them in comparing the risks and benefits of “active transport” and air pollution for different levels of duration and intensity and in different locations around the world. They found that regular exercise may reduce risks associated with several cancers, heart disease and diabetes. Findings of the study have been published in journal Preventive Medicine.

Only one percent of the cities in the World Health Organisation's Ambient Air Pollution Database had pollution levels, high enough to outweigh the benefits of physical activity after just half an hour of cycling every day.

“Even in Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world -- with pollution levels 10 times those in London -- people would need to cycle over five hours per week before the pollution risks outweigh the health benefits,” said study lead Dr. Marko Tainio from the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge.

However, senior author Dr. James Woodcock warned that the study should not be looked at as a chance to not take action against air pollution. He added that the study can also help in spreading awareness so that people get out of their cars and start walking or cycling. This can further reduce pollution levels and in turn help in bettering peoples’ health.