Early insights from Air Aware Labs

Training for an athletic event in a bustling city or near an industrial area can significantly impact your health and performance due to air pollution.

Will Hicks
June 16, 2024

Training for an athletic event in a bustling city or near an industrial area can significantly impact your health and performance due to air pollution. At Air Aware Labs, we use advanced data analytics and thought leadership to fulfil our mission of providing clean air for everyone. Currently, we are developing analytics that link air pollution exposure to athletic performance and health outcomes. Here, we present some early insights from our exposure data, which spans four continents and includes a diverse range of activities such as windsurfing in Australia, kayaking in America, running in the Alps, and cycling in London. This global perspective helps us understand how different environments and pollution sources affect athletic performance across various sports and regions.

Identifying Key Exposure Factors

Athletes training in high pollution areas exhibit decreased lung function, reduced endurance, and slower recovery times. Here we highlight several key factors influencing air pollution exposure:

Exposure Time

The amount of time spent doing an activity outdoors will influence the amount of exposure you get. Our results show people typically spend the most time engaging in activities like golf, gravel riding, and hiking, while swimming accounts for the least amount of time outdoors.


High-traffic areas consistently show elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), significantly affecting outdoor runners and cyclists. In contrast, particulate matter (PM2.5) is less impacted by traffic (although there's an impact from brakes, tyres and the road surface), while ozone (O3) levels tend to be highest in rural areas.

Natural Factors

Vegetation and weather conditions, such as wind patterns, play a crucial role in dispersing or concentrating pollutants in certain areas. Running in a park with dense trees might offer some protection against certain pollutants.

Geographical Location

High PM2.5 levels correlate to certain geographic regions, whereas NO2 concentrations don’t show a regional correlation, demonstrating local influences such as traffic and industrial sources.

Time of Day

Kudos to those who exercise early! Your NO2 exposure is typically slightly lower in the morning before traffic builds up! PM2.5 exposure is also influenced by the time of day, although the optimal time can vary, highlighting the importance of regularly using our upcoming dashboard.

Average NO2 concentrations by time of the day - concentrations are highest in the evening
Average NO2 concentrations by time of the day

Moving Forward

As we refine our performance and health analytics, we will offer actionable insights that help people worldwide achieve their best and enjoy their health while minimising their exposure to harmful pollutants. Real-time exposure mapping and forecasts will enable athletes to choose training routes with lower pollution levels or adjust workout times to avoid peak pollution periods.

Stay tuned for our upcoming exposure dashboard and join us in creating a healthier environment for athletes everywhere.  Follow us for more great insights into performance and overall wellbeing.