Breath of fresh air? Jogging in air-polluted London

Jogging in the cityI ran into the office today. I try to do it a couple of times a week, to save having to traipse to the gym after a long day at work.

Normally I take the bus, which is pretty energy-efficient in its own right. Using the Carbon Tracker on my iPhone, (I won’t get started on my Ode to the iPhone again) I’ve worked out that my journey to work, which is about 4km, generates 0.2kg of CO2. If I took the tube, it’d be 0.4kgs and if I happened to win the lottery and bought a small car, it’d be 0.6kgs. So I’m already doing the planet a favour by navigating London on the Number 19.

The 0.2kgs which I save by running instead of taking the bus really stacks up over a year – if I run twice a week, that’s 21.2kgs less of CO2 that I’m responsible for.

However, a worrying story the other week said that air pollution in the UK is responsible for 24,000 deaths a year. A report estimated that 20 British towns emit twice as much air pollution as the level advised by the World Heath Organisation. The air in London specifically – which Boris is supposed to be improving in time for the Olympics – is really, reeeaaaally bad. I saw another report by the London Assembly which suggested air pollution kills up to 3,000 people annually in London.

So while I might be doing the planet a favour by jogging, what about my body?

Air polluted by gases from cars and factories irritates and accumulates in lung tissue and exarcerbates respiratory problems. Other research now shows it puts your heart under extra pressure too.Air pollution in London

I’ve always presumed that it’s better for my health to run in the fresh air outdoors rather than in a air-conditioned gym, but this seems a pretty big health risk to take on my way to work in the morning.

The main advice seems to be to not jog during heavy periods of traffic. I don’t really have control over what time I start work, but I could alter my route. At the moment my route’s dictated by A) speed and B) window-shopping opportunities along Upper Street on my way. But Upper Street is chockablock at that time in the morning, so I’m going to look into a different route where there’s less traffic.

I’ve also found this useful website from the London Air Quality Network where you can type in your postcode and get hourly updates on the air quality in that location. I was pleased to see Finsbury Park is only Level 1, on a scale of 1-10. Lambeth, near my office, is only Level 1 too. But anyone living in Tower Hameles gets a raw deal – ozone levels reach Level 3 there.

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