The influence of air quality and meteorology on athletic performance

Hodgson, James Robert ORCID: 0000-0003-4227-5339 (2021). The influence of air quality and meteorology on athletic performance. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Public perception and knowledge of urban air pollution has increased greatly in recent years, with up to 90% of the world’s population living under air quality conditions that exceed some of the World Health Organisations guideline values. It is predicted that this will increase as a greater proportion of the population move to urban areas, with further health risks posed by climate change. Additionally, the world is also facing low activity levels and an increasing obesity crisis, with questions posed as to the best methods to address this. The international phenomena of parkrun has managed to actively engage multiple demographics in weekly 5 km runs, with increased participation in mass running events also occurring over recent years. Sadly however, there have been numerous occurrences of environment-related incidents at athletic events at a range of participant levels. Despite this, there has been little examination of the impact air pollution and meteorology, particularly extreme events, has on exercise performance and health benefits associated with outdoor exercise.

Consequently, this thesis examines the influence of air pollution and meteorology on recreational exercisers at parkrun events, elite 5000 m athletes during the Diamond League Athletic Series and the combined elite and recreational athlete fields at The Great North Run (half marathon distance). Utilising fixed-point and modelled data in conjunction with historic race results variation in the impact of pollutants and meteorology on performance is examined. Findings show that temperature is the greatest influencer on both elite and amateur participants. Ozone, albeit linked to temperature, also has a detrimental impact on athletic performance. The influence of other environmental parameters are variable but highlights include increased PM2.5 pollution slowing elite female athletes significantly over 5000 m and the slowest finishers at the Great North Run being influenced the most out of all participants due to their prolonged exposure time. Suggestions for further research and implementation of mitigation measures to reduce the effect and likelihood of negative environmental conditions and health-related incidents at all athletic participation levels are also explored with a focus on ‘at event’ and personal exposure monitoring. This study also highlights the need for further research into the field as well as examination of the variation in effect pollution and meteorology has on different genders and participant abilities.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Department of Geography
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences


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