Exercising in smoky air?!

Exercising In Smoky Air?!

Like many states around us, we are plagued with wildfires. And they're getting worse. They are spreading (and new fires are starting) because our state is so dry.

This is a big problem for those of us with asthma because breathing smoke from forest fires can be dangerous. In fact, when Middle Son was little, he ended up in the ICU because of the smoke from a nearby fire. He was playing at a friend's house (so I thought), but they decided to go outside and play in the backyard of the friend's house. I'm not sure how long they were outside, but it wasn't more than an hour before I looked outside and saw the smoke and then ran to find the kids. Yet he still ended up in ICU. And what a scary week that was for our family!

So, when I drive to work and see people outside exercising in the smoke, I think "Are you people crazy?"

I see people out running and walking, and sports team having drills, and I wonder why they are still exercising when the air is so heavy with smoke? Surely they know that it's dangerous for their lungs? It doesn't take a genius to figure out that breathing in smoke hour after hour is going to cause problems.

I have heard a quote floating around for years that breathing in the dirty air can have the same effect on your lungs as smoking. I finally found a quote from Russia's chief lung doctor who said, “(The current level of) carbon monoxide damages an average of 20 percent of red blood cells in a human body which equals to the effect of two packs of cigarettes smoked within three or four hours.”

He doesn't specify what the current level was, just that it was 10 times the limit. They were only having a heat wave, which raised the carbon monoxide level. But heavy smoke from forest fires can easily raise the carbon monoxide levels to dangerous levels. I just looked up the Air Quality Index (AQI) for Placerville California, and the AQI is 179 (considered "red" or unhealthy air quality.) Good or "green" air quality is 0-50. So that is about 3 1/2 times the above the "safe level".

So, we know that exercising outside in the smoke can do a lot of damage.

Are there other options for exercise

But what are your options then? Well, most bigger cities will have YMCA or recreation center, complete with indoor tracks, fitness equipment, and swimming pools.

Or you can join the people that head to the mall early in the morning to walk.
When I was in college, I worked at a record store (yes records - you know those black vinyl things that you play on a turntable? Maybe you've seen one in a museum?)

We had mall walkers come early every morning before the mall opened so they could exercise by walking laps around and around inside the mall. We mostly saw the moms in strollers and older couples.

But hey - it was free and it kept them active and healthy.

So if your state is full of smoke like ours, be smart about exercising and make sure you protect your lungs. You only have one pair, you know.


By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.

Community Poll

Does humidity impact your asthma?