Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Heat Wave

With the thermostat rising, seems like a good time to mention automobile pollution. Awful. Awful. Awful. There's nothing like running through 80+ degree temps and then getting a full blast of hot exhaust from a passing car.

Fortunately, Time Out New York this week rates some of "NYC's favorite running spots" against pollution. Here's some highlights and comments.

  • 3. Central Park: "Try to avoid the loop around the outside and the main thoroughfares." The outside loop part is good advice, but if "the main thoroughfares" refers to the loop, it's closed to traffic on weekends and is a runner haven.
  • 4. Riverside Park: "There are plants between you and the highway, which is good." I guess that's something.
  • 5. Williamsburg Bridge and 6. Brooklyn Bridge: "There are cars here, but at least they're moving." In addition, there's generally a breeze blowing from the south which I would think would help dissipate some of the exhaust.
  • 8. Hudson River Park: "This is such a congested part of town."
  • 9. East River Park: Just Bad.
  • 10. Queens Bridge Park: "No one should exercise around there."
The universal message from all the ratings? Try to stay as far away from automobiles as possible while exercising. Basically you want to be at least 500 feet and if possible 1500 hundred feet from traffic. Yes, that's right, the experts say that "[t]hough 'it's almost impossible in Manhattan,'" you should ideally have a quarter-mile between you and traffic while working out. To me, "almost impossible" is not quite strong enough. It is impossible. To make matters worse, while exercising you breath as much as 10 times the pollution of a sedentary person, subjecting yourself to higher risks for pollution-induced asthma, cancer or heart problems. And, as a last ironic twist, because of the pollution, the benefits of the exercise on your lungs is retarded, meaning you're not even getting the benefits you think you are.

Finally, just to make this more depressing, breathing auto-exhaust while exercising can lead to "coughing," "irritat[ion of] your lungs ... kind of like getting a sunburn on the inside of your lungs," "cancer and heart problems," and "brittle and weak" lungs.

With all this good news, it's a shame that Albany's going to block congestion taxes. (Although I understand that rerouting that traffic to the FDR will make East River Park even more toxic, charging drivers for the damage they're doing to my lungs seems fair.)

So, enjoy the heat wave folks. But try to exercise really early or indoors because the heat, thanks to certain chemical reactions, only makes the pollution worse.

Today: 8.6 mile Stuyvesant Cove in 1:10:00 (8:08/mile) with 10X100m striders.

UPDATE:The Times ran its own article on air pollution and exercise on Thursday. "In the calculus of health concerns, 'Breathing air pollution is not nearly as bad as smoking,' Dr. Lippmann said." Well, I guess that's comforting.


Sempre Libera said...

Ugh, isn't it ironic that we're at a greater risk for things like lung cancer from participating in activities that are keeping us healthy otherwise? So frustrating... though it's certainly not going to stop me :-)

I'm all for congestion pricing; I happen to think most people have no business driving (and circling endlessly to find parking) in Manhattan. Wonder if Albany will get its act together though... somehow I'm not optimistic.

nyflygirl said...

how was your hangover yesterday morning? :-p