Yellow skies and a red sun have us all wondering if it's safe to exercise outdoors when air quality is compromised. Smoke from several large wildfires burning in nearby counties and across the state can affect all of us, and can make riding a bike outside challenging.
The health impacts of smoky air vary depending on a person's sensitivity level, the duration of physical activity, and also how long a region is affected by smoke.
Here are a few tips for exercising outdoors during wildfire season:
1) Check the AQI daily. The Air Quality Index is a numerical scale that standardizes health risks and exposures to five different pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act. Any number over 100 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups (pregnant women, children, the elderly and people with heart or lung disease). The general population may be adversely affected when the AQI is over 150. Most weather apps show AQI for a given weather station (shown above is from Weather Underground).
2) Keep rides on the short side. If you do decide to venture outdoors after checking the AQI, you may want to ride for less time than you normally would to minimize exposure.
3) Take more breaks. Resting more can help you regulate the number of breaths you're taking over the course of your ride. A person can breathe 2 to 4 times faster during physical activity than during rest, which means you're bringing more outside air into the body.
4) Go easy. Soft pedal long climbs and keep intense exertion to a minimum.
5) Ride indoors. If you have a trainer, riding indoors with the AC on may be the safest way to get your legs moving, particularly when AQI is over 100.
Also: Remember to check for trail closures before you ride.
For more tips on exercising during wildfire season, click here.