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Athletes, Unite!

Athletes United for Healthy Air (AU) is exactly what is sounds like–a campaign bringing together athletes of all kinds to champion clean air. Who can participate? Any individual or team that engages in physical activity. Whether you’re a casual runner or an avid bicyclist, it’s important to stay informed about our regional air quality. Participants in this campaign will learn more about southwestern Pennsylvania’s air pollution, ways to minimize their exposure, and how to activate their voices for clean air.

Why Athletes?

We all know that exercising regularly is important for cardiovascular and respiratory health and overall well-being. Unfortunately, many of these health benefits can be diminished by breathing air pollution.

Exercising outdoors increases your exposure to air pollutants because you breathe more deeply and more rapidly, taking in more air, and because you tend to breathe through your mouth, bypassing the natural filtration in your nose. During aerobic activity — even low-intensity activity — you breathe more air than you do when at rest.

The Pollution Problem…

Southwestern Pennsylvania lays claim to some of the worst air quality in the country. Allegheny County consistently ranks poorly for two pollutants in particular: particulate matter and ozone. Both of these pollutants critically affect your health.

Particulate matter includes solid and liquid droplets of various sizes suspended in air, and is associated with everything from inflammation of the respiratory system, to asthma, heart attacks, various cancers, diabetes, and autism. Breathing ground-level ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. It can also worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.

Athletes need clean air to exercise in. If you want to fight against dirty air, Athletes United for Healthy Air has the resources to help you be the champion you need.

How can you be a Healthy Air Champion?

There is a spectrum of actions that individuals, teams, and organizations can take to be a part of our Athletes United for Healthy Air campaign.

Here are some of the ways you can be a Champion:

  • Stay up to date on current air quality news and action alerts via email from the AU campaign
  • Write letters-to-the-editor and to your representatives
  • Attend press conferences, and/or public hearings on air quality issues in the region
  • Sign GASP petitions and make comments on permits

For help to get started visit our page on how to be a watchdog. To get info on programs and events specific to Athletes United, sign up here.

Along with the above actions groups can also:

  • Endorse the Athletes United for Healthy Air Campaign
  • Collaborate with AU to put on events/activities that educate attendees about air quality
  • Activate members or constituents to contact legislators regarding various air quality issues

Is your organization interested in joining or AU Team? Fill out this form and we’ll be in touch.

Tips for athletes to reduce exposure:

  • Work out in the early morning or early evening when pollution levels are generally lower. Click here to access an in-depth look into when PM2.5 and ozone spike throughout the day.
  • Avoid busy streets. More traffic means more pollution. Take a side street–even if it’s only one block away, it’ll make a big difference. A brief article explaining this can be found here.
  • Practice nasal breathing. This helps to filter out asthma triggers like dust and pollen and keeps the incoming air the proper temperature and moisture level. Read more here.
  • Be aware of the air. Check the AQI and adjust your exercise accordingly.
  • For more localized air quality reports:

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