Swamps of Louisiana (Photo: Iñigo Mujika)

Swamps of Louisiana (Photo: Iñigo Mujika)

Chapter 27 of my book Endurance Training – Science and Practice is dedicated to “Unhealthy air and water environments: effects on endurance training and competition”. The chapter was written by my friend and colleague Randy Wilber, Senior Sport Physiologist at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where the air quality is usually really good.

Randy’s chapter provides the most recent information on the challenges that the endurance athlete faces when training and competing in an air-polluted environment, but the importance of breathing clean air for health has been known for a very long time. Here are several extracts from Hitchcock & Hitchcock’ 1860 book Elementary Anatomy and Physiology for Colleges, Academies and Other Schools.

“470.—4. Pure Air is Essential to Healthy Lungs—Life Depends on Breathing Pure Air.—All mechanical and chemical impurities of the air inhaled induce and aggravate disease. Indeed, the most important hygienic rule for the lungs is to breathe pure air. Mechanical impurities, such as dust and vapors, are eminently injurious, but not so much so as the chemical impurity, carbonic acid, which comes from the exhalations of men and animals, and the burning of all combustible substances. And it is safe to say, that the greater the care we take to ventilate our rooms, and in every way to breathe pure air, the longer shall we live and with the least amount of pain and disease. Breathing impure air is one of the greatest natural evils to which civilized society is subject, and destroys more lives than almost any other.”

“471.—5. We need Pure Air by Night as well as by day.—Hence we see that the lungs need pure air all the time, by night as well as by day—in the sitting-room, the eating-room, and the bed-chamber, the school-house, the meeting-house, rail-car, and steamboat, if we would do our utmost to ward off disease and death.”

“473.—7. Pure Air is often a Medicine.— In most diseases the breathing of pure air is important for restoration to perfect health, since there are often some impurities in the blood or system which are removed mainly by pure air. So that the rule of supplying pure and warm air to the sick room should be rigidly observed.”

I think it is time to get out and exercise in a natural environment to get some clean air into our bodies!

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