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How Tech Can Help Runners Become Air Pollution Smart

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.


Runners in cities across the world – from Oslo to Delhi to London – are struggling to deal with poor air quality. 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.


A recent study found that running or biking home from work has a proven link with lung damage, and can lead to heart failure.Pollution is more harmful to the lung circulation during exercise,” Dr Argacha, lead author of the study, notes, “This is a major public health issue.” It also affects children: the air in New York City, for example, is more harmful to the kids who exercise outdoors than it is to the kids who stay inside.


But, as pollution gets worse, does this mean we should just stop exercising outdoors?

We don’t think so. Technology is already playing a big role in many runners lives: now hyperlocal air quality data is available, and can be integrated into smart devices, fitness apps, and digital health products. This empowers runners to get accurate pollution data, so they can make healthier decisions.


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

  1. Help runners plan when and where to go for a run


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.


  1. Add pollution exposure to your reports


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

Wondering how you can make all of this happen in your own products? BreezoMeter can help. We provide hyperlocal, real-time air quality, historical data, forecasting, and more, all available through a simple API. We’re proud to have Dyson, Dermalogica, AccuWeather, Veolia, and other great clients on board, and we’d love to chat with you about your needs, too. Set up a call with an air quality specialist to learn more.


Further reading

London Marathon runners frustrated after being warned not to train outside due to air pollution

Sports, Air Quality: The Undeniable Connection

Air pollution and exercise: Is outdoor exercise risky?

Case-study: Veolia provides a different kind of itinerary, pollution-smart!



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