Is the air quality OK for exercise? There’s an app for that!

“Yikes! Is that wildfire smoke? Do I need a respirator today??!!”

We Southern Californians place a high value on our outdoor activities. In fact, many of us are willing to endure the traffic and crowding and high cost of living here simply because the weather is almost always perfect, allowing us to run, bike, surf, hike, ski… pretty much unencumbered by special clothes or equipment nearly every day of the year.

However, there are times when deep, aerobic breathing outside can be problematic. And while we don’t have the super-nasty smog we had decades ago, we do have increasingly frequent wildfires or high-wind/pollen/dust generating weather events that make it necessary to monitor the air we will be breathing if we decide to exercise.

Is the Current Air Quality OK for Aerobic Exercise?

So how can you figure out if the air in your area is safe to breathe before you strap on those running shoes? Well, there’s an app for that! (Actually there are several apps and a website.)  Below are the tools I use to check the air quality before my workout.

From the American Lung Association: “State of the Air” provides a clean, simple forecast, as well as background info on what the numbers might mean for you. (Click for the Google Play Store app listing.**)

“Plume Air Report – Live and forecast smog reports” provides a simple graphical forecast that is fairly detailed, as well as predictive info on how air quality might impact your particular outdoor activity. (Click for the Google Play Store app listing.**)

Today Weather – Forecast, Radar & Severe Alert is a Google Play Store “editor’s choice” app. If you want to combine your air quality forecast with all sorts of other detailed & customizable weather info, then this is the app for you! It even allows you to choose the data source your prefer: AccuWeather, Weather Underground, etc.   (Click for the Google Play Store app listing.**)

Not an app, but a great website:

If you are located in Southern California and would prefer to go to a webpage, then click for the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s website. (See message above for other U.S. air quality sources.)

** Links to Apple Versions of the above apps: 

When Smoky Wildfire Air Persists… Wear a Protective Mask!

Now I’m no respiratory expert (and this is NOT official medical advice), but when the air is particulate-heavy from wildfires and I just gotta get my exercise anyway, I wear a mask. According to CBS News, “Personal face mask respirators can also be effective, but not the cheap paper or cloth masks that many people in developing countries commonly use. The best choice is an N95-certified respirator, which is designed to protect workers from hazardous exposures on the job.”

Below is a photo of a the 3M Mask I use for my aerobic exercise in particle-polluted air. It’s N95 certified and available from Home Depot. (Note the exhalation valve: This is essential to keep my glasses from “fogging up” while keeping the seal when I exhale when breathing really hard.)  I buy these in packs of 10 and keep them around for pollen-plagued yard work, sanding, etc. Click the image to go to the Home Depot website and learn more.



The bottom line: Aerobic exercise should be good for you… not hazardous to your health!  So if the air seems a little funky (or if seems clear and crisp but there are wildfires, warnings, etc. in your area), then use one of these apps or the website to get more info about what you’re facing. And if need be, strap on a mask and protect your lungs.

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