Women more affected than men by air pollution when running marathons

March 2, 2010
Poor air quality apparently affects the running times of women in marathons, according to a study by Virginia Tech civil and environmental engineer Linsey Marr. Credit: Virginia Tech Photo

Poor air quality apparently affects the running times of women in marathons, according to a study by Virginia Tech civil and environmental engineer Linsey Marr.

Marr's findings come from a comprehensive study that evaluated race results, , and air pollutant concentrations in seven marathons over a period of eight to 28 years. The top three male and female finishing times were compared with the course record and contrasted with air pollutant levels, taking high temperatures that were detrimental to performance into consideration.

Higher levels of particles in the air were associated with slower running times for women, while men were not significantly affected, Marr said. The difference may be due to the smaller size of women's tracheas, which makes it easier for certain particles to deposit there and possibly to cause irritation.

"Although pollution levels in these marathons rarely exceeded national standards for air quality, performance was still affected," Marr said.

Her work, done in collaboration with Matthew Ely, an exercise physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of , appears in the official journal of the American College of , Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise. http://www.acsm.org/

Her studies were conducted where major U.S. marathons are located, such as New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, where pollution tends to be highest. Although the person might not be significantly impacted by low-yet-still-acceptable air quality, marathoners are atypical because of their breathing patterns, she said.

"Previous research has shown that during a race, marathon runners inhale and exhale about the same volume of air as a sedentary person would over the course of two full days," Marr said. "Therefore, runners are exposed to much greater amounts of pollutants than under typical breathing conditions."

Particulate matter appeared to be the only performance-altering factor in , with carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide levels not impacting race times.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Three million Americans carry loaded handguns daily, study finds

October 19, 2017
An estimated 3 million adult American handgun owners carry a firearm loaded and on their person on a daily basis, and 9 million do so on a monthly basis, new research indicates. The vast majority cited protection as their ...

More teens than ever aren't getting enough sleep

October 19, 2017
If you're a young person who can't seem to get enough sleep, you're not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night ...

Across Asia, liver cancer is linked to herbal remedies: study

October 18, 2017
Researchers have uncovered widespread evidence of a link between traditional Chinese herbal remedies and liver cancer across Asia, a study said Wednesday.

Eating better throughout adult years improves physical fitness in old age, suggests study

October 18, 2017
People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don't, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

Global calcium consumption appears low, especially in Asia

October 18, 2017
Daily calcium intake among adults appears to vary quite widely around the world in distinct regional patterns, according to a new systematic review of research data ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on Friday, Oct. 20.

New study: Nearly half of US medical care comes from emergency rooms

October 17, 2017
Nearly half of all US medical care is delivered by emergency departments, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). And in recent years, the percentage of care delivered ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.