Should You Exercise When the AQI is High? Three Fitness Experts Weigh In

It’s just a couple of weeks into 2017, and many of us are still in the midst of trying to fulfill recently made New Year’s resolutions to get out and exercise more. Yet on days when the AQI is high it’s understandably easy to make the excuse that exercising in polluted air is detrimental to your health, and put your workout routine on hold in favor of an afternoon on the couch next to your air purifier.

Most experts strongly advise against doing any kind of high intensity exercise outside when air pollution levels are high, since the heightened pace of your breathing means you take more pollutants directly into your respiratory system, which can cause inflammation. You’re also more likely to breathe through your mouth, bypassing the minute hairs in your nasal passages that help to filter out dust and pollutants. Prolonged exposure can increase your risk of respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.

Yet while it’s true that exercising outside has a distinctly detrimental effect, most experts maintain that the countless benefits of exercising, including increased output of endorphins and reduced risk of conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, to name but a few, do outweigh the drawbacks – as long as the air inside is clean, that is. For example, a study on the relationship between the effects of exercise and pollution on mice found that mice that were exposed to exhaust emissions over a period of five weeks without exercising saw a significant increase in inflammation and oxidative effects, while mice that were exercised five days a week during the same period seemed to be protected from the effects of the emissions.

That’s why Rocky Xu, CEO and founder of Ever Fitness, a fitness studio with branches in Sihui and Qingnian Lu, decided to install Blueair air purifiers in both their gyms. “Exercising has so many benefits, both physical and mental. We noticed that more of our members were coming by when the air outside is really polluted because they feel like they want to give something back to their body. We wanted to make sure that they have a clean, safe environment to exercise in.”

Rocky Wang, managing director of Green Essence, another Blueair client, which recently opened on the fifth floor of Intercontinental Beijing Sanlitun, agrees that when gray skies are getting you down, exercising is one of the best ways to lift your spirits. “We see Green Essence as more than just a gym. We are a community of trained health specialists dedicated to providing the care, support, and guidance needed to create a healthy lifestyle. We want to provide a space where people can come to unwind and spend some quality 'me' time. Clean air is a big part of that,” he says.

The question then remains: what type of exercise should you be doing indoors on smoggy days? Since Blueair’s purifiers ensure the air at Green Essence is amply breathable, Rocky Wang suggests that you can still do some light cardio. He recommends their aqua biking class, a 45-minute cardio workout on a stationary bike in the swimming pool, which provides a light workout with lower impact on joints, yet is still effective at fat burning.

On the other hand, Why Fitness’s Wang Shuai, a professional fitness instructor, prescribes a more cautious approach: “Even if you have a good air purifier, I suggest that you don’t do strenuous exercise like running or cycling on heavily polluted days. Yoga or more relaxed exercise is better on those days.” Wang Shuai installed Blueair purifiers throughout the Why Fitness studio at south of Gongti, making it a good option for those looking for a gym with air purifiers around the Sanlitun area.

Luckily for those without a gym membership, Wang Shuai’s suggestion of yoga can be easily accomplished at home. Whether you’re a complete beginner or an accomplished yogi, there are plenty of apps out there to help you practice. For example, the Pocket Yoga app comes with 27 different routines at varying levels of difficulty, along with illustrations of hundreds of different poses to help you ensure your form is correct. Just make sure you’ve got your air purifier running!

Whatever style of exercise you choose, thanks to Blueair and their gym partners you can rest easy in, well, not resting easy!

Ever Fitness (Sihui location)
3-102, Bldg 53, Yuanyang Tiandi, Siyunsi Qiao, Chaoyang District (5360 8101)
朝阳区慈云寺桥远洋天地53#3-102

Green Essence
5/F, Intercontinental Beijing Sanlitun, 1 Nan Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District (6462 5556)
朝阳区南三里屯路1号通盈中心洲际酒店5层

Why Fitness
Rm 109, 1/F, Guangcai International Apartments, Gongti Nanlu, Chaoyang District (5603 7969)
朝阳区工人体育场南路光彩国际公寓底商S109室

The following gyms also use Blueair purifiers:

Tera Wellness/一兆韦德
(Embassy of Beijing branch) East Dongfang Road No. 19 Liangmaqiao diplomatic apartment on the 1 floor (diplomatic apartment
(北京大使馆店)东方东路19号亮马桥外交公寓1(外交公寓)

Guobin Hotels/北京国宾酒店
Fuchengmenwai Street No. 9
阜成门外大街甲9

Accor Hotels/北京万达索菲特大饭店
C, Wanda Plaza, No. 93 Jianguo Road, Beijing, Chaoyang District
北京市朝阳区建国路93号万达广场C

Yanqi Hotel/北京雁栖酒店
Huairou Yanqi Island
怀柔雁栖岛

Kempinski Hotel/凯宾斯基酒店
Chaoyang District Liangmaqiao Road No. 50
亮马桥路50

Photos: Uni You, Kyle Mullin

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