If you are living in a big city with desk-bound activity for most of the day, you must be familiar with the suggestion of walking. Studies and health experts suggested walking as a simple physical exercise for those with sedentary activity and not much time to commit a certain workout. City dwellers are more prone to chronic diseases, such as blood pressure, obesity and heart disease. Therefore, walking serves as an effective solution.
But watch where you’re walking!
A study by Lancet (2017) shows that air pollution can potentially contribute to nullify health benefits from walking. Participants of the research admitted big improvements on their lung capacity and arterial stiffness after walking in a less polluted Hyde Park, Central London. On the contrary, those who walked along Oxford Street in the West End of London--breathing in heavily polluted air--found small improvements on their lung capacity and worsening arterial stiffness.
Air pollution is closely related to fossil fuel combustion, which is also one of the main causes of climate change. However, it is not the only cause of air pollution. Many factors contribute to air pollution, such as the rising number of factories and private vehicles. Despite the problems, the fact is that air pollution is worsening and more cities across the world are reaching higher air pollution rate.
By the end of June 2019, Jakarta, Indonesia was ranked as the world’s most (air) polluted city. The rank was published on AirVisual, a site that regularly updates air pollution rate in cities across the world. The news brought major rants from Jakarta residents and most of them blamed the government.
The rapidly growing capital city was even ranked first as the city with the worst air quality in Southeast Asia the previous year (2018). The rank was followed by Hanoi, Vietnam and some cities in Thailand.
Unfortunately, air pollution is not something that can be fixed overnight. Any government regulation, as has been done as a response by Jakarta city government, would only kick start an awareness and movement. But, the impact and change itself will take time.
This is why we, as city residents, should take actions both to prevent further pollution rate and to cope with the already polluted air around us. Avoiding polluted areas is the first step. We can still walk around and get some exercise, but we just need more protection with masks and avoiding certain areas. At the same time, we will also lessen our carbon footprint by taking less private vehicles.