Spend a buck, save your lungs: Why you should exercise indoors


If you're a movie fan, you've probably seen the classic New York jogging scene: the young ingenue is running in Central Park with her somewhat weird looking female sidekick. She's complaining about her love life, her work life, or some other aspect of her amazingly inane existence while her friend huffs and puffs and tries to keep up. Somehow, she manages to hold a conversation, get her cardio workout in, and still look cute. Of course, having a stylist helps.

The sad truth is that, regardless of her complaints, the young ingenue's biggest problem might be that she's jogging outdoors in a major city. According to recent studies, even with major strides in cleaning up city air, metropolitan areas are still respiratory danger zones. Pollutants, including fine particulates, ozone, and carbon monoxide, can irritate lungs, causing them to increase their mucus production and inflaming the airway lining. This, in turn, can worsen pre-existing problems such as bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, or cardiopulmonary illness.

As if this wasn't bad enough, a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine concludes that air pollution is directly related to the production of blood clots in leg veins. This, in turn, can lead to pain, swelling, or even (if the clot breaks loose) death. What's more, although cities are notorious hot spots for air pollution, people in the suburbs and even the country aren't immune from the threat. Weed whackers, lawnmowers, and other gasoline-powered monstrosities are horrendous polluters. If you're interested in checking out your region's air quality, take a peek at the EPA's website. However, beware: what you find may frighten you!

One solution is to find places in your area where the air quality is better. These include places off the beaten path, forests, and parks (yes, even Central Park). A better solution, though, is to do your cardio workout indoors, particularly during the summer. Although a gym club membership might be a little more costly right now, staying out of the smog could be the best investment that you can make!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He wears a gas mask whenever he leaves his batcave.