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Air Quality & Fitness

How Air Quality Insights Help Runners Become Air Pollution Smart

Picture of Ziv Lautman
By Ziv Lautman on February, 14 2020

Every day, in cities across the world, millions of people lace up their shoes and go for a run outside. Runners are used to dealing with all sorts of hazards, but these days, exercising outside is becoming increasingly dangerous. The reason is simple: air pollution.

Running Outdoors VS. Air Pollution

It’s no secret that air pollution has significant effects on our health, but it actually affects us more if we’re exercising: we inhale more air, and our respiratory system is forced to work even harder. According to researcher Dr Argacha “Pollution is more harmful to the lung circulation during exercise". She goes on to state that “this is a major public health issue.

But, as pollution gets worse, does this mean we should just stop exercising outdoors? No. Technology and big data is already playing a big role in many runners lives, and now hyperlocal air quality data integrated into smart devices, fitness apps, and digital health products can help individuals take the steps needed to manage pollution exposure. 

Here are three good use cases bringing a breath of fresh air to runners and fitness lovers worldwide.  

1. Optimize running routes in real-time based on air quality

With real-time and hyperlocal air quality data now widely available, running apps and fitness wearables can inform users of the current air quality while they exercise outdoors.

As people run down the sidewalks of busy city streets and exercise during peak pollution periods, an easy to implement feature is to send real-time alerts when pollution is too high for exercising. The alerts could also include suggestions on where the air is cleaner.

But this can also be taken a step further: how about optimizing routes in real-time, and offering runners the healthiest workout, by indicating the “clean air route”?  The possibilities are endless.

runner route air pollution optimized workout

2. Help runners plan when & where to go ahead of time 

People make time out of their busy schedule to go for a run. But if pollution is highest during their normal running time, it’s having an adverse effect on their health, and they know it.

It’s important to help runners plan around pollution. Technology using air pollution forecasting can make it easy for runners to know when and where they should exercise. Health and fitness apps integrating forecasting can gain immediate advantage over competing tools, and boost their user satisfaction and loyalty.

3. Add personal pollution exposure to your reports & alerts

More and more fitness tools now provide running reports, whether on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. These reports are typically either an email, a push notification, or a whole section in the user interface.

Using historical data and geolocalization, you can upgrade your reports with a breakdown of air pollution levels, as well as the different pollutants the user has been exposed to. You can show trends, for example: you usually run between 8 and 10 am, when air pollution is higher than the daily average - and suggest recommendations for future workouts - 9 pm at night tends to be the best time to workout in your area, or if you want to run in the morning, try the Golden Gate Park, 10 min away. Another way is to summarize pollution exposure during the run or even the entire day.

air pollution exposure apple watch

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