Running is a convenient and effective exercise for achieving good health. In recent years, running has become one of the most popular sports worldwide, even in Hong Kong, the number of people registering for the Hong Kong Marathon keeps hitting new highs.


With a pair of running shoes, runners can start training anywhere, even on the side of the road. However, runners should be aware of the potential health risk of exhaust fumes from vehicles. Long-term exposure to air pollution results in daily intake of heavy metals, and these lead particulates which remain in the body bring adverse health effects.

For those who cannot avoid running along roadsides due to a limited choice of running tracks, choosing non-rush hours or in areas with less vehicles is suggested. Yet, roads are always busy and congested during rush hours in most urban areas of Hong Kong. One should take note of the even more serious concern over health caused by exposure to exhaust fumes during traffic jams.

Moreover, the concentrations of carbon monoxide and ozone are highest under the sun and during periods of high traffic. Exposure to ozone and carbon monoxide will result in fewer red blood cells to transport oxygen, reducing the ability to get air to and from hemoglobin efficiently. It would eventually damage the respiratory tract as well as cardiopulmonary functions. A person suffering from asthma or other chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease should choose running venues carefully and avoid doing exercise along busy roads during peak traffic periods.

The body's intake of air increases considerably during exercise because breathing is deeper and more rapid. In other words, a person would intake more air pollutants during exercise than while waiting for a bus or walking along a busy road. Therefore, runners who usually do exercise on the side of the road should be aware that the positive effects of running may be negated by the adverse health effects of air pollution.

(Article originally posted on Wen Wei Po on 29 April 2018)