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Should I Run in Polluted City Atmosphere?

I've been living in the city (Cambridge, MA) for almost a whole year now and one of the biggest things I miss about living outside the city is the cleaner air. OK, the air in Lowell is not exactly clean but I can drive 10 minutes and be in the middle of a 1,000 acre state forest where the air is much cleaner. I used to do a lot of running before I moved to Cambridge, both indoors and outdoors, but now I feel afraid to run. I can smell the pollution in the air simply walking 10 minutes between my apartment and the office -- it makes the air dry and thick. I'm not one to quit simply because something is more difficult or because it doesn't taste or feel good. But when it comes to my health, I can't help but wonder, will running in polluted city atmosphere actually be worse for me than not running at all?

Every day I see so many people, young and old, running throughout the city and I wonder if the health benefits they are experiencing are only temporary -- if by sucking down so many unnatural, unhealthy chemicals they're actually shortening their overall lifespan. I touched on this subject a few months ago in a post titled Dirty Air. I concluded the post by saying that a healthy lifestyle cannot be had while working where the crowd works. I don't like to believe things are impossible and I feel there must be some type of balance that can be reached -- perhaps a combination of indoor aerobic activity (rowing machine), indoor anaerobic activity (weight lifting), and various weekend outdoor activities when I visit Lowell on the weekends.

I also wondered if running at night, or early in the morning, would be more healthy than running during the day. I noticed the air smells much cleaner during the late evening and early morning hours. My own hypothesis is that when the sun goes down and the air begins to cool, all the warmer air (which was mixed with pollution from cars and buildings as well as heated by the sun during the day) rises up into the atmosphere allowing the cooler, cleaner air (cleaned by moisture in the air, currents, etc.) to sink down to the ground. If this is true, then running at night and early in the morning, before people start leaving for work, could be much healthier than running during the day. Are there any night runners (or early morning runners) out there that can confirm any of this?

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