Background: Outdoor physical activity (PA) brings important health benefits, but exposure to polluted air increases health risks. This study aimed to quantify the tradeoff of PA under fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) air pollution by estimating the optimal PA duration under various pollution levels. Methods: A risk-benefit analysis was performed to estimate the optimal outdoor moderate-intensity PA (MPA) duration under varying PM 2.5 concentrations. Results: An inverse nonlinear relationship was identified between optimal MPA duration and background PM 2.5 concentration levels. When background PM 2.5 concentration increased to 186 µg/m 3, the optimal outdoor MPA duration decreased to 2.5 h/week, the minimum level recommended by current PA guidelines. When background PM 2.5 concentration further increased to 235 µg/m 3, the optimal outdoor MPA duration decreased to 1 h/week. The relationship between optimal MPA duration and background PM 2.5 concentration levels was stronger when exercising at a location closer to a source of air pollution. Compared to the general adult population, adults aged 60 years and older had substantially steeper curves—the optimal outdoor MPA duration decreased to 2.5 h/week when background PM 2.5 concentration reached 45 µg/m 3. Conclusion: The health benefit of outdoor MPA by far outweighs the health risk of PM 2.5 pollution for the global average urban background concentration (22 μg/m 3). This modeling study examined a single type of air pollutant and suffered from measurement errors and estimation uncertainties. Future research should examine other air pollutants and indoor PA, incorporate short- and mid-term health effects of MPA and air pollution into the risk-benefit analysis, and provide estimates specific for high-risk subgroups.
- Air pollution
- Physical activity
- Risk-benefit analysis
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation