Air pollution may counteract the beneficial effects of physical activity on brain health

Takeaway

  • Engaging in physical activity improves brain outcomes, while air pollution is linked to detrimental brain outcomes.

Why this matters

  • In high pollution regions, physical activity may have a contradictory effect on brain health by increasing particulate deposition in the lungs. This important study used data from the UK Biobank, which is the largest epidemiological cohort with combined air pollution, neuroimaging, and objectively measured physical activity and is the first to examine interactions between physical activity and air pollution on structural brain volumes.

  • The findings highlight the importance of minimizing exposure to air pollution during exercise and, since most air pollution sources are traffic-related, running or cycling in less heavily trafficked roads should be encouraged.