“Everyone should try to minimize their exposure as much as reasonably possible,” says Edelman. Breathe easier with these strategies:
Get moving in the morning.
Ozone is generally lowest at this time, from roughly 6 a.m until 10 a.m., and it rises throughout the day as sunlight breaks down the hydrocarbons of auto exhaust, turning it into smog.
Replot your route.
Find ways around the busiest thoroughfares. A street with traffic that zooms past will be less polluted than a congested road that has cars idling at stoplights, their emissions hanging in the air. If you can’t avoid high-traffic roadways, plan your workout so your hardest effort comes at the least congested part of your route. If you live in a city, hit the park.
Avoid the worst offenders.
Stay away from high-pollution scenarios altogether, such as parking lots and marinas with idling diesel vehicles (trucks, buses, boats) and areas where a forest fire is burning nearby. Yard equipment such as lawn mowers and snow or leaf blowers also spew fumes you don’t want to inhale, so try not to be downwind of them, says Thurston.
Embrace the breeze.
“The worst pollution days are usually the hot, stale days of summer,” says Greenbaum. Windy conditions often make for better air days because the breeze disperses pollution, reducing its concentration.
Eat your antioxidants.
Getting the recommended daily dose (75 milligrams) of vitamin C, particularly through foods (e.g., broccoli, spinach, oranges, and tomatoes), may help your lungs resist pollution-related damage, says Thurston. Vitamin C reduces free radicals, lowers the production of inflammatory histamines, and helps boost glutathione, a detoxifying agent that aids cells in dealing with carcinogens and heavy metals such as lead and mercury.
At your annual physical, ask your doctor to assess your lung function using spirometry, a test in which you’ll blow into a measuring device. What to watch for: “A trend over time indicating any adverse changes from your previous visit,” says Thurston. Remember, exercise is still the best way to keep your lungs flexible and in top shape.