Physical activity is beneficial for smokers, regardless of the levels of air pollution, according to a study led by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal) on the lung function of more than 4,500 people in nine European countries.
The work has been carried out within the project "Ageing Lungs in European Cohorts" (ALEC), coordinated by Imperial College London and published in the journal 'Environment International'.
A previous study of the same project concluded that regular physical activity was associated with better lung function among smokers, but data on exposure to air pollution was not analyzed.
This new work was aimed at assessing whether residential exposure to air pollution -the annual estimate of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particles suspended PM2.5 and PM10- modified the effect of physical activity on the function pulmonary, both smokers and those who have never smoked.
The researchers analyzed the data of 2,801 people who had never smoked and 1,719 smokers in nine European countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – participating in the Respiratory Health Survey of the European Community (ECRHS).
For ten years they followed the participants, between 27 and 57 years old at the beginning of the study, and were classified as active if they did physical activity with a frequency of two or more times a week and a duration of one hour a week. or more.
Pulmonary function was assessed by the spirometry test.
The findings indicated that regular physical activity was associated with better lung function among smokers, regardless of the levels of air pollution.
With regard to non-smokers, physical activity seemed to have benefits for lung function in areas with low or medium levels of air pollution, but these results were less clear in more polluted urban areas.
Elaine Fuertes, first author of the publication, stressed that "the results reinforce the message that physical activity is beneficial for health, including respiratory health."
"However, our data suggest that there may be some attenuation of this effect among non-smokers living in cities with high levels of pollution, so if confirmed, policies aimed at controlling air quality levels would guarantee the maximum benefit of policies to promote physical activity ", added the researcher.
According to the coordinator of the work and research program of Noncommunicable Diseases and Environment of ISGlobal, Judith García-Aymerich, "many forms of physical activity take place in the open air, such as cycling, walking or running, and it is also promoted active transport as a method to reduce both air pollution levels and sedentary lifestyle. "
"Thus," added Garcia Aymerich, "understanding the relationship between air pollution, physical activity and lung function is essential for decision making in the areas of public health and urban planning."