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  1. #1
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    Exercising Outdoors in Bangkok

    If this article is to be believed, avoid it! The effects of breathing in more pollutants outweighs the health benefits of aerobic exercise. Due a complete lack or care for city planning, indoor exercise is your best bet in Bangkok. I would avoid Jatujak Park and even Lumphini if the Air Quality Index exceeds 70.

    You can check your city's AQI with this url: PCD : Regional Air Quality Index

    Why men who run and cycle outdoors may be speeding toward an early grave.
    By: John Brant, Men's Health Photograph by: Justin Steele

    Five times a week for the past 5 years, I have been unwittingly but systematically poisoning myself.

    Each lunch hour, I run for 30 minutes on a wood-chip trail in a leafy park in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. But there's a catch to my moderate, seemingly harmless routine: To reach the park, I must first jog nearly a mile along a busy thoroughfare named Fremont Avenue. Until recently, the screech of city buses and the reek of diesel trucks always felt like a small price to pay for the pleasures waiting on the trail.

    Here's what I didn't know: With every deep draught of oxygen, I also gulp down alarming quantities of ozone, carbon monoxide, microscopic particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead, and a witch's brew of other pollutants. By conducting part of my workout at midday along a congested street, I am reducing my lung function, constricting my air passages, courting chest pain, increasing my chances of developing asthma, unleashing free radicals to catalyze carcinogens in my bloodstream, and activating cellular processes that might lead to a heart attack.

    "When I see people running or bicycling along a busy street in the middle of the day, I want to tackle them and scream at them to stop," says Rachel Langford, coordinator of the Clean Air Project for the American Lung Association in Oregon. "At some intersections, we ought to post 'No Exercise Allowed' signs."

    Inhaling the Ozone


    It may be hard to imagine that vigorous outdoor exercise generally trumpeted as an all-purpose antidote to disease and a retardant to mortality could actually help bad air hurt you. But the explanation is simple: When you're running, cycling, playing tennis, or shooting hoops, you breathe in more of it. A lot more.

    A sedentary person inhales approximately 15,000 liters of air per day, or 6 to 10 liters per minute. During heavy aerobic exercise, however, you draw in 60 to 150 liters per minute, delivering oxygen throughout 600 to 900 square feet of surface area in the lungs.

    "That means the exerciser breathes in 10 to 15 times more pollution than the sedentary person, and he's sucking it deeper into his lungs," says Rob McConnell, M.D., a researcher in the department of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California medical school. "In fact, just by stepping out the door, you could be exposed to five times the ozone you'd inhale if you stayed inside. So if you're outdoors and exercising . . . well, do the math."

    The numbers grow more harrowing, because you breathe primarily through your mouth during exercise. At the same time that I'm pulling vast clouds of bad air deep into my lungs during my noon run, I'm also bypassing my body's remarkably effective air-filtering system: the nasal passages. (Mucus traps particulates, and then tiny, waving, hairlike structures called cilia push the old mucus up and out of the body.) The triple whammy of breathing fast, deeply, and through the mouth makes my daily run and perhaps your regular workout an ozone/particulate/carbon monoxide orgy.

    Eventually, our bodies defend themselves against air pollution by breathing less. Air passages tighten, and breathing becomes labored. Our exercising bodies are ensnared in an intractable dilemma: While working furiously to process more air to feed oxygen-hungry muscles, they simultaneously strive to protect us from that air. Our pulmonary and cardiovascular systems strain like air conditioners in an extended heat wave and eventually, inevitably, break down. Early symptoms often include wheezing, coughing, scratchy throat, headache, chest pains, and watery eyes. Other, longer-term effects are considerably more dire.

    Gasping for Polluted Air


    In Scotland, for instance, researchers studied 30 healthy men cycling on exercise bikes while exposed to diluted diesel exhaust. After 1 hour's exposure to the fumes, the cyclists developed constricted blood vessels and showed a reduction in tPA, an enzyme that breaks down blood clots in the heart. In another study, 17 competitive cyclists were exposed to varying levels of ozone while exercising; their endurance decreased by approximately 30 percent, and their lung function by 22 percent.
    Research conducted in Finland shows an even clearer connection between dirty air and heart-attack risk. Every 2 weeks over a 6-month period, scientists monitored 45 volunteers as they exercised in simulated dirty-air conditions. Results linked both fine-particle pollution (the effluvia issuing out of smokestacks) and ultrafine-particle pollution (the invisible emissions from motor vehicles) with a threefold increase in the risk of ischemia, a potentially lethal shortage of oxygen reaching the heart muscle.
    Perhaps most disturbing is how airborne toxins can harm us without triggering symptoms. In Southern California, for instance, researchers examined 107 fatal-accident victims, ranging in age from 14 to 25. Before their deaths, none reported breathing problems. Yet autopsies revealed that 86 of the deceased 80 percent had chronic lung disease. The message to cardio devotees: Easy breathing can confer a false sense of security.

    "Healthy, active people tend to underestimate the harmful effects of polluted air, because they don't wheeze or experience chest pain," says Henry Gong Jr., M.D., an air-pollution researcher at the University of Southern California medical school. "Feeling invulnerable, they continue to exercise, putting themselves at greater risk."

    The Big Six cause an Asthma Spike


    I wanted to know the kind and quantity of pollutants I was inhaling, and thereby gain a rough sense of what my lungs might look like after years of unintentional abuse. My investigations took me from academic experts like Dr. McConnell to officials at the American Lung Association, and finally to a state DEQ air-monitoring station in my neighborhood in Portland. The station is overseen by Holly Stewart, a biologist and air-quality specialist.

    A vigorous woman in her mid-40s who used to fight forest fires, Stewart takes me around the station, which lies less than a mile from the street where I run. She shows me the pumps and filters and computer monitors packed inside the 12-by-12-foot shed. She then leads me up a ladder to the flat roof, where there are more measuring devices. It's an abnormally sunny autumn day in western Oregon, with a cool breeze washing over the playground adjacent to the station, and the steady din of traffic rising from the I-5 freeway about a half mile to the west.

    "Things are looking pretty good today," Stewart says, checking the nephelometer, a device that measures ozone levels. "And with that wind picking up from the east, we should stay well within the AQI [Air Quality Index] limits for the next several days."

    Today's favorable air-pollution readings are characteristic of Portland, which made headlines in 2004 when results showed that the city's ozone-pollution level had decreased over the past decade, despite sharp rises in population, traffic, and economic growth. But over that same period, there was also an increase in Oregon's statewide incidence of asthma. The asthma spike is particularly pronounced among young people, who, with their high rates of physical activity, mimic the characteristics of healthy adult athletes.

    The explanation for this might lie in two cutting-edge areas of inquiry: the study of pollutants other than the Big Six (ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and lead) and analysis of air-pollution microclimates i.e., localized areas in which the air is significantly dirtier than in regions as a whole. Among the former, diesel particulates the black waste issuing primarily from trucks, buses, locomotives, and other large conveyances are emerging as particularly worrisome.

    "One of the dangers with diesel particulates is that they adsorb other pollutants and interact with them inside the body," says Fred Berman, Ph.D., director of the toxicology information center at Oregon Health & Science University. "They might prove to be closely linked to a variety of cancers. We're just beginning to understand the threat."
    Since diesel particulates have only recently been identified as a health hazard, the EPA has yet to mandate caps on their levels. Instead, the agency issues voluntary "benchmarks." Thus, while a city like Portland can proudly point to a significant reduction in ozone, a rise in the level of diesel particulates may be canceling out the potential benefits, especially for outdoor exercisers.

    "And the fact is that many things run on diesel now," Berman points out. "Trucks, locomotives most things that move people and goods. Ironically, the conveyances doing the most to fight overall pollution buses and recycling trucks use diesel. Those are the vehicles spewing out the black stuff."

    At the same time diesel particulates are mounting a growing hazard, scientists are recognizing that air pollutants can be meaningfully measured only on a localized basis. A neighborhood downwind from a freeway or pulp mill, for instance, might have dramatically dirtier air than someplace upwind. Yet, if the downwind area is factored in with more favorably positioned neighborhoods, the overall measurements might indicate that the city has healthy air.

    "Where do we tend to build our schools and colleges?" asks Dr. McConnell. "Next to busy streets and intersections, due to convenience and the fact that land close to traffic is usually cheaper. When people run on the track at those schools, or play tennis, or swim laps in the outdoor pool, they are breathing much dirtier air than what's listed in the newspaper."

    No More Smog Jogs


    Despite the darkening diesel cloud, spiking asthma rates, and proliferation of scary studies, all the experts assure me that, on balance, I've been doing myself more good than harm with my daily run.

    "By all means, keep running," Dr. Gong says, "but for goodness' sake, stop running along that busy street. If you run just a block away, your risk will be significantly lower."

    Dr. Gong also suggests exercising early in the day, when diesel particulates, ozone, and other air pollutants are at their lowest levels, or after nightfall, when traffic abates. Ozone forms when sunlight reacts with automobile and industrial emissions, so it accumulates to significant levels by about 11 a.m. and peaks at around 3 p.m. (After sunset, ozone can no longer form, so the concentration decreases.) By the same token, ozone levels are significantly higher during the sunnier months. Some experts, especially in notoriously smoggy cities such as L.A. and Houston, recommend tailoring training cycles to the season.

    Other commonsense mitigating tactics include standing in front of the line of traffic at stoplights and busy intersections, and skipping your outdoor workout if the AQI exceeds 70. (Go to AIRNow - Home and click on "Local Forecasts & Conditions.") Consuming fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C, such as peaches and red peppers, stimulates production of glutathione, a liver enzyme that helps prevent free-radical damage in the lungs. And just a few places down the antioxidant alphabet is vitamin E, which can also help repel radicals.

    The most effective and logical response to air pollution, of course, is to drive less, consume less, and thereby reduce what you are, directly and indirectly, pumping into your city's atmosphere. No one is greener in this regard than bicycle commuters and no one, ironically, breathes more traffic exhaust.

    "I'm aware of the 'superpolluters' when I'm riding," says Scott Bricker, policy director for the Oregon Bicycle Transportation Alliance, an advocacy group. "When I ride behind one, I go into this thin, shallow style of nose breathing. That gets me through the worst of it. At least I like to believe it does."
    Back at the air-quality station in Portland, the wind shifts, and the freeway din grows louder. Stewart opens the top of a PM10 particulate sampler, a device that measures diesel particulates, and extracts a filter clogged with black soot. She explains that this grime has accumulated over just a 48-hour period. I recall all the miles I have logged along Fremont Avenue.
    "Actually, this doesn't look so bad," Stewart says. She points to my black jacket. "Some cold days, when people have their fireplaces going, or during temperature inversions in the summer, it shows up darker than your jacket."

    She replaces the filter, her expression thoughtful. "Besides, when you're talking about air pollution and exercise, it's often what you can't see that gets you."

  2. #2
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    Damn - well that does it - i'm gonna just have to spend more time at the pub instead.

  3. #3
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    kingwilly.
    For some reason I thought you had left Thailand and returned to Aus.
    Was I mistaken?

  4. #4
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    left thailand yes.... return to Oz?? not on ur nellie.

    I'm now in Jakarta, Indonesia.

    but i still love Bangkok! (in fact I'll be there next weekend for a short 5 day visit! - if anyone wants to meet up for a drink)

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingwillyhggtb
    but i still love Bangkok! (in fact I'll be there next weekend for a short 5 day visit! - if anyone wants to meet up for a drink)
    Nah.

  6. #6
    befuddled
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    I used to run around the park near the Emporium Suk 24....The problem was tha there was only a 30 minute window in the morning and evening when this was possible due to the sun. If in Bangkok now I would restrict my running to the gym. Can't scientists do something about these emissions? Surely in this day and age they can chemically engineer exhaust fumes to smell of pot-pouri
    Back off Margaret, you're on a sugar rush!

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    I run around in the sun every Sunday at 5pm. It's ok. Noticably cooler than if you start at 4pm.

  8. #8
    I am in Jail
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    What kind of weirdo moves to the hottest city in the world and one of the most polluted and pursues an outdoor running hobby

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marmite the Dog View Post
    I run around in the sun every Sunday at 5pm. It's ok. Noticably cooler than if you start at 4pm.
    I remember why I moved to Phuket now. I often go to the beach at 4 pm when it's cool and windy with lots of fresh air!


  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marmite the Dog View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kingwillyhggtb
    but i still love Bangkok! (in fact I'll be there next weekend for a short 5 day visit! - if anyone wants to meet up for a drink)
    Nah.
    fck off dickhead - i wasnt talking to you!

    Quote Originally Posted by bournemouthophile
    What kind of weirdo moves to the hottest city in the world and one of the most polluted and pursues an outdoor running hobby
    umm ppl who like to run!?

    now fck off dickhead!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by danbo
    I used to run around the park near the Emporium Suk 24....The problem was tha there was only a 30 minute window in the morning and evening when this was possible due to the sun. If in Bangkok now I would restrict my running to the gym. Can't scientists do something about these emissions? Surely in this day and age they can chemically engineer exhaust fumes to smell of pot-pouri
    If a hotel doesn't have good ventilation or has the gym on the top floor, the pollution can even seep indoors. Two years ago when I was running in the Ambassador Hotel's gym, I started coughing like I just smoked a pack of cigs. Never had the same problem when at Tony's Gym in Pattaya.

    Thaksin plans to replace the smog belching non-aircon buses with natural gas powered buses, which are a lot more friendly to the environment, within 8 months. But this is just a baby step in alleviating Bangkok's horrid pollution problems.

    Quote Originally Posted by Smeg
    What kind of weirdo moves to the hottest city in the world and one of the most polluted and pursues an outdoor running hobby
    You need to take your ajarn-centric blinders off for a moment and realize this board isn't only for expats. A sizable portion of the members live in the West and go to Thailand for vacations or occassional business trips. Outdoor running is a safe, healthy activity in metropolitan US areas due to better pollution laws and enforcement. Simply detouring major roads is adequate to avoid most of the pollution. The same solution doesn't work in Bangkok. For people that don't live in Bangkok and are not used to running in such conditions, it is useful information to know how dangerous outdoor activity is to your health there.

  12. #12
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    I don't want to run or exercise anymore. Screw that noise. That's why I'm retiring.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Storekeeper View Post
    I don't want to run or exercise anymore. Screw that noise. That's why I'm retiring.
    Does that mean the space between the bottom of your singlet and the top of your trousers is going to get even bigger?

    [Sorry SK, just had to get in my 1300th post this morning and you were the obvious victim....]

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    Quote Originally Posted by buadhai View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Storekeeper View Post
    I don't want to run or exercise anymore. Screw that noise. That's why I'm retiring.
    Does that mean the space between the bottom of your singlet and the top of your trousers is going to get even bigger?

    [Sorry SK, just had to get in my 1300th post this morning and you were the obvious victim....]
    actually it's just his singles keeps shrinking but women love that look ha ha

    I like us new avatar. did you create it?

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