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Beating Pollen for Outdoor Exercise This Spring

Natalie
Stein
March 1, 2022
Beating Pollen for Outdoor Exercise This Spring - Lark Health
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In this article:

  • It can feel like time to exercise outdoors after a long winter indoors. But seasonal allergies can make outdoor exercise harder. Asthma, runny nose, and congestion are common symptoms.
  • Avoiding outdoor activity when there are high pollen counts can help. So can wearing a mask, lowering your workout intensity, and limiting gardening.
  • Lark helps build healthy habits that can fit into your lifestyle. Lark is available 24/7 for health and weight loss coaching through the smartphone.

Warmer spring weather can mean a shift to outdoor activities. But high pollen counts can make it tougher. Over 20 million Americans have seasonal allergies, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Here's what to know about exercising outdoors when pollen is in the air.

What Is Pollen?

Certain plants need pollen for reproduction. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) says trees, grass, and weeds have pollen. Pollen can let plants grow in new places. But pollen in the air can trigger allergic reactions. 

Symptoms of Pollen Allergies

Seasonal allergies are known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, says Mayo Clinic. Symptoms can include sneezing, watery eyes, a runny nose, and congestion. Mayo Clinic says allergic reactions to pollen can also cause symptoms of asthma. That's a problem if you're trying to exercise outside!

Getting Active Outdoors

But going outdoors for physical activity has so many benefits! You can read more about outdoor exercise benefits here

Weather permitting, these are a few springtime outdoor activities.

  • Walking or running
  • Biking
  • Gardening and other yardwork or home improvement activities

But seasonal allergies can make you think twice before going out. It can be best to go when pollen counts are low, and to take other precautions.

Checking Pollen Levels

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest checking local pollen forecasts. Exercising outdoors when counts are high can make symptoms appear.

The Air Quality Index is another indicator. It gives a color to show level of concern based on five types of air pollutants. Pollen is part of the group of pollutants called particulate matter. A green, or "Good," rating means the air is not risky. Very sensitive people may be at risk with a yellow, or "Moderate," rating. Orange, or "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups," and anything worse, may pose problems if the pollution is related to pollen in the air. 

Outdoor Exercise Tips 

Mayo Clinic has tips for being active outdoors if you are sensitive to pollen.

  • Wear a dust mask if you are going to be outdoors.
  • Disrupting plants can make pollen fly. It may be best to let others mow the lawn and pull weeds.
  • Put your workout clothes in the laundry as soon as you are done with them.
  • Take a shower as soon as you come inside. That can remove pollen that is sticking to skin and hair.
  • Follow any tips from your doctor, and take medications as prescribed.

Also, save highest-intensity activities for low-pollen days. Running and kickboxing, for example, make you breathe harder, which can make symptoms worse.

More Ways to Avoid Pollen

It's safest to avoid outdoor exercise when pollen levels are high according to local reports and forecasts. These are some more patterns for pollen levels.

  • Pollen levels may be at harmful levels more often in urban areas than rural areas, according to the CDC and research published in Allergo Journal.
  • Pollen counts can be lower after rainfall.
  • Dry, windy conditions can be worst, since pollen is blowing around. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) suggests being careful on these days.
  • Pollen counts can change through the day, so keep checking back.

You can limit exposure to pollen at other times, too. The American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy says to close windows while indoors. An air purifier with a HEPA filter, and a humidifier, can also help.

Physical activity can improve health and help with weight loss. Get all the help you can getting active! There are many ways to overcome challenges such as bad weather and lack of time. Lark can help you stay active! Lark helps build healthy habits, like exercising regularly, through the smartphone. 

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