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Is It Safe to Exercise Outdoors in the Presence of Wildfire Smoke?

The running club had already emphasized on Tuesday that people should avoid exercise outdoors running until the air clears, suggesting that individuals with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma are particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of the smoke.

Even though it’s a Global Running Day exercise outdoors, it is not recommended to go for a run exercise outdoors today.

In response to the smoke spreading from the Canadian wildfires to various parts of the United States, the New York Road Runners exercise outdoors have decided to cancel all their Global Running Day-related exercise outdoors events scheduled for Wednesday. They advise individuals in New York City or any affected area to carefully review and adhere to their city’s health advisory regarding air quality for June 7 and consider postponing their running plans to another day.

Risks of Running in Wildfire Smoke

A 2021 study by the European Heart Journal concluded that an increase in exercise outdoors in a highly polluted environment “may adversely affect cardiovascular health.” This finding emphasizes the importance of considering the risks associated with running in wildfire smoke.

California’s Air Resources Board advises people to avoid exercise outdoors during smoky conditions. The exposure and resulting health effects depend on various factors, including the duration of time spent outside, level of exertion, level of air pollution, and individual health conditions.

Impact on Respiratory Health:-

Smoke from wildfires contains a mixture of particles, some of which are microscopic and can penetrate deep into a person’s lungs and bloodstream. This is concerning for runners who primarily breathe through their mouths during exercise outdoors, as the mouth lacks a natural filtration system for pollutants. The American Lung Association highlights that ultrafine particles are not exhaled during physical activity, further increasing the potential harm.

Official Recommendations and Guidelines:-

Given the hazardous nature of running in smoky conditions, New York City’s mayor’s office advises residents with heart or breathing issues to be cautious when exercising outdoors. It is recommended to limit outdoor activities to only the absolute necessities on such days. These guidelines aim to protect individuals from the adverse health effects of inhaling wildfire smoke.

Understanding Wildfire Smoke Composition:-

Wildfire smoke comprises both visible particles, such as dust and smoke, and microscopic particles that are significantly smaller than a human hair’s width. While the former can be seen with the naked eye, the latter poses a greater risk as they can penetrate deep into the respiratory system. Runners must be aware of the composition of smoke and its potential impact on their health.

Breathing and Filtration During Exercise:-

During exercise, individuals tend to breathe more through their mouths than their noses. Unfortunately, the mouth lacks the natural filtration system present in the nose, making it easier for pollutants to enter the body. This emphasizes the need for caution when running in smoky conditions and the importance of protecting the respiratory system.

Visibility Challenges:-

Apart from health risks, smoky conditions during wildfires can significantly impair visibility, posing safety concerns for runners. Reduced visibility increases the chances of accidents and injuries. It is crucial to prioritize safety and refrain from outdoor exercise when visibility is compromised by smoke.

Air Quality Ratings and Rankings:-

On Global Running Day, New York briefly held the unenviable position of having the worst air quality rating among all cities worldwide, according to the IQAir World Air Quality Index. This serves as a stark reminder of the hazards associated with running in wildfire smoke and highlights the need for individuals to prioritize their well-being.

Effects on Athletic Performance:-

Studies have indicated that running in polluted areas can result in reduced running speed for competitive athletes. A 2019 study found that polluted air could lower an athlete’s threshold for symptoms. If the smoky conditions persist, athletes may experience a cumulative effect on their performance and overall health.


While Global Running Day is an occasion to celebrate and promote the benefits of running, it is essential to prioritize health and safety when faced with environmental challenges like wildfire smoke. Experts strongly advise against running in areas affected by smoke, especially for individuals with respiratory conditions. Following official recommendations and guidelines, protecting the respiratory system, and being aware of the composition and hazards of wildfire smoke are crucial steps in ensuring the well-being of runners.

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