Air Pollution and Sports: In Conversation with Dr Mapari
As a founder of “Fit2Sport," my team and I work in the field of injury prevention & management, sports specific fitness guidance and program execution for a better future for sports specific fitness & performance enhancement; helping build champions.
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Tell us more about Fit2Sport?
Fit2Sport was started by me a few years ago to try and help athletes and the related to not only manage injuries but also enhance performance. We believe in implementing a scientific evidence-based approach to address the issues. Our purpose is to provide related support to athletes, helping them to compete and win at the highest levels.
With various experienced professional experts on board, we provide a holistic solution to athletes. Our team of experts deals in sports medicine, sports science, sports physiotherapy, sports nutrition, sports psychology, strength and conditioning, sports massage, etc.
What encouraged or inspired you to join this line of work?
With a traditional view in management of sports injuries and lack of expertise in the related field of sports science and medicine, I was strongly attracted to the scientific and evidence-based approach of the experts outside our country. I always felt that we do have immense talent in sports in our country and was hoping to get into some related field to make some positive difference. I did play a lot of sports in my student days and so working in this field is too satisfying. It is encouraging and self-motivating to see that I am trying to help athletes achieve their goals.
Does Air Pollution make outdoor exercise risky?
Yes, it does. Depending on the air quality at the time of outdoor exercises or activity.
How does one know that they are at risk?
The government does have guidelines laid to help understand the air pollution risks for all considering the Air Quality Index (AQI).
How does one monitor air pollution levels?
All major cities in the country will publish the AQI regularly to help understand the potential risk to the citizens.
How do you determine what sports you can play and for how long indifferent air pollution levels?
To my knowledge, there are no specific scientific studies done to address this issue. The only guidelines published are for the general population when they are at a high risk of getting respiratory illness or aggravation of their related health conditions like Asthma, COPD, Bronchitis, etc.
For doing any outdoor sports activity or exercises, certain indicators can be considered as pointers in the given air pollution levels. If we relate the AQI in the area to the rate of perceived exertion (RPE), there are chances of improvising outdoor activity participation.Although these are not proven scientifically and need further studies, one can least use these guidelines to continue doing exercises or games when the pollution levels are below the hazardous mark. One can refer to the format made by Fit2Sport for Decathlon India to understand more about it.
What’s your opinion on practicing indoor sports when air pollution levels outdoors are very high?
One can surely practice indoor sports in a controlled environment when the air pollution levels are way above the desired outdoors. The use of good indoor air filtration systems can help play all necessary indoor sports normally.
When it comes to air pollution, where does India stand? What cities are affected most?
Certain cities in India are considered as one of the most polluted cities in the world. In the Northern part of India, cities like Kanpur, Varanasi, Delhi are worst hit.
The concentration of harmful PM 2.5 refers to fine particles (2.5 micrometers or smaller in diameter) in the atmosphere. For eg., Delhi hit 810 micrograms per cubic meter (mpcm) on one morning in November 2019. To provide a little context, the highest reading anywhere in London is currently 65, the recommended World Health Organisation safe daily maximum is 25, and anything above 300 is considered “hazardous”.
Every winter, Delhi and surrounding areas with over 20 million people are blanketed by car fumes, industrial emissions, and smoke from stubble burning at farms in neighboring states. Pollutants are produced by combustion, including motor vehicles, power plants, forest fires, and some industrial processes.
What are some of the measures we can take to protect ourselves?
It is very important to follow government guidelines when the air quality is above hazardous levels.
Using good quality breathing masks to avoid inhaling particulate matter and smog is advisable in most polluted conditions.
People with pre-existing respiratory conditions like Asthma, COPD, etc. should be more careful and see a physician if symptoms aggravate.
Reducing/modifying outdoor physical activity concerning the AQI is advisable.
Any tips or advice you have for people who are likely to be exposed to bad air quality?
One can do indoor activities in controlled conditions if all your physical parameters are normal.
Please ensure you see your doctor when breathlessness is exaggerated concerning your normal routine.
For asthmatic people, any symptoms of cough, bronchospasm not responding to the routine management should visit the hospital for treatment.
The pollution warnings regularly issued by the governmental health authorities are increasingly frequent. It must be said that there are a number of risks associated with breathing in a polluted environment.
Nine out of ten people worldwide are exposed to levels of air pollutants that exceed the World Health Organization's safe levels. Here’s a frame to practice your sport in safety in a polluted environment.
Do you subscribe to the “Leave no trace” philosophy? This philosophy is very pro environment that aims to preserve the beauty and sanctity of mother nature giving you and your future generations the opportunity to enjoy your ground of practice for a longer time.