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Is Exercising Outdoors Safe If I Suffer From Allergies?

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If you are sensitive to pollen, air particulates, or pollutants outdoors, its better staying inside for your workouts. If you crave fresh air, go outdoors when the air is relatively cleaner at certain times of the day and seasons of the year. Yoga, crossfit, gymming, zumba, and indoor swimming are viable indoor alternatives and help strengthen your respiratory system to fight allergies.

Exercise is a great way to keep fit and hit those weight goals you have set for yourself. But if you are someone who is living with allergies or asthma, heading outdoors for a run or a swim is not that straightforward. Should you avoid outdoor exercise if you suffer from allergies?

What Kinds Of Allergies Do You Have?

Whether or not working out outdoors is a good idea depends on the kinds of allergies you have and how they manifest. If you are sensitive to pollen, particulates in the air, or pollutants that are found outdoors, you may be better off staying inside for your workouts. Anyone with respiratory allergies is likely to have more problems with exercising outdoors where there are more allergens rather than indoors. Crossfit, gyms, zumba, indoor swimming present viable alternatives to outdoor exercise.

Air Quality And The Outdoors: What You Should Know

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors the quality of air on an ongoing basis. According to their data, an estimated 89 million tons of pollutants were pumped into the air by the United States in 2014 alone.1 In spite of an improving trend in air quality, there are still 57 million people across the country living in areas where pollution levels are above the healthy limit for National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Higher levels also imply there could be adverse health effects.2

If You Can’t Avoid The Outdoors

Sometimes, you may not have an indoor workout option or might crave some fresh air. In such cases, it is best to work out at times of day when the air is cleanest. For instance, those with pollen allergies should avoid exercising outside between 5 and 10am or early evening when pollen levels are high.3

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that if you are allergic to certain insect bites or stings, you should always head out with the epinephrine prescribed to you by your doctor. If your allergies are severe or if you have exercise-induced anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction), carry an injectable epinephrine and never exercise outdoors on your own.4

Seasonal Variations In Outdoor Air Quality

There are also seasonal variations in air quality. One study of people allergic to birch pollen showed that their exercise-induced asthma was worse during springtime when there was more pollen in the air than in winter.5 The key is to know when your triggers are in season and strictly avoid the outdoors during this time even if you exercise outdoors the rest of the year.

Yoga As An Alternative To Outdoor Exercise

If you find that working out outdoors is ruining your health, you could consider alternatives that are just as enjoyable indoors. Yoga, for instance, can give you a host of health benefits and might even help combat the effects of some of your allergies by improving your respiratory function. One study even showed that yoga could be effective for improving respiratory function for healthy elderly people.6 A separate study showed that yoga if undertaken even for a short length of time (3 months) could greatly improve children’s respiratory muscle strength.7

Whether you choose to stay indoors and explore alternatives or head outdoors armed with the necessary equipment and medication, regular exercise is great for you, provided you do it safely.

References   [ + ]

1.Air Pollutant Emissions Trends Data, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 
2.Air Quality Trends, United States Environmental Protection Agency.
3, 4.Exercising with Allergies and Asthma, American College of Sports Medicine.
5.Karjalainen, J., A. Lindqvist, and L. A. Laitinen. “Seasonal variability of exercise‐induced asthma especially outdoors. Effect of birch pollen allergy.” Clinical & Experimental Allergy 19, no. 3 (1989): 273-278.
6.Santaella, Danilo F., Cesar RS Devesa, Marcos R. Rojo, Marcelo BP Amato, Luciano F. Drager, Karina R. Casali, Nicola Montano, and Geraldo Lorenzi-Filho. “Yoga respiratory training improves respiratory function and cardiac sympathovagal balance in elderly subjects: a randomised controlled trial.” BMJ open 1, no. 1 (2011): e000085.
7.D’Souza, Crystal Dalia, and Sandhya T. Avadhany. “Effect of yoga training and detraining on respiratory muscle strength in pre-pubertal children: A randomized trial.” International journal of yoga 7, no. 1 (2014): 41.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

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