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THE ART OF HEALTH: Smoke in air may not prevent exercise

By: Ginger Klein Special to The Gazette
July 8, 2013 Updated: July 8, 2013 at 6:00 pm
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Recent wildfires in our community and throughout the state have resulted in periodic warnings to limit strenuous outdoor activity.

It is a sobering reminder of how important clean air is to our well-being and how the absence of it can be confining. While it can cause uncertainty to hear these notifications and can lead to uneasiness about exposure to pollutants, learning about the measurements and levels of alert can quell some anxiety.

Let's take a brief look at how air quality and its safety for exercise is measured. It's called the Air Quality Index and it's calculated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

AQI is measured in units from 0 to 500, with an average pollutant/safety level set at 100 - the higher the number, the poorer the air quality. The number is expressed in relation to both ozone (smog) and particulate matter pollution (exhaust, pollen, ash), and the measured number fits into one of six ranges: good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy and hazardous.

The AQI is measured daily in myriad counties across the U.S. and is readily available online; one source is the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, http://apcd.state.co.us/air_quality.aspx.

Assuming a general standard of safety, it is OK to exercise outdoors through the moderate level. Beyond the moderate level, caution is given to some groups of people. Even during the heaviest periods of smoke in the Black Forest fire, the levels of pollution hovered around the moderate/unhealthy for sensitive groups range, remaining in the range of being OK to exercise, with caution, except for limited groups of people.

Air quality is a concern for even the healthiest people. However, climatologists say that the best monitor of air quality is you. Pay attention to how you feel and what you see and smell, as the levels of smoke can vary by neighborhood based on variable smoke behavior and wind patterns.

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Klein is a first-degree black belt in taekwondo and practices at the U.S. Taekwondo Center, serving the region for 26 years. For more information, call 488-4321.

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