Thu. Feb 29th, 2024

Are you enjoying the health benefits of time in nature this summer?

The outdoors is a great place to exercise. Whether it’s walking, biking or swimming, there are many ways to stay active in nature. But outdoor workouts bring with them a number of environmental conditions.

When the weather turns warm, air quality often suffers. This can be a problem for those who suffer from respiratory conditions, such as asthma. Knowing the air quality in your area ensures that you can spend a safe and fun time outdoors without having to worry about the air you breathe.

Fortunately, there is a tool available in Ontario that will guide you in reducing the risks from the effects of air pollution.

Understanding AQHI

The couple sits on the lookout and looks at the lake

The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is a scale designed to help you understand what the quality of the air around you means for your health, helping you make decisions to protect your breathing.

The AQHI measures air quality in relation to your health on a scale of 1 to 10: the higher the number, the greater the health risk associated with air quality.

The index describes the level of health risk associated with this number as “low,” “moderate,” “high,” or “very high” and suggests steps we can take to reduce our exposure and improve the quality of the air we breathe. .

Elderly couple walking on the path

Older people, children, those who work outdoors, and people with chronic heart or lung diseases are at higher risk for health effects associated with high AQHI numbers.

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You should get into the simple habit of checking your local AQHI number regularly, especially during the hot summer months when there is a greater chance of air pollution affecting your breathing.

Tips to protect your breathing outdoors

Children cycling on the trail in the forest

Follow these tips to protect your lungs and breathing from air pollution:

  • Check current and projected maximums in your community at or by downloading the app
  • Follow AQHI health messages depending on whether or not you are in the “at-risk population”
  • Avoid areas that have a higher level of pollution, such as near major roads.
  • Exercise indoors if the AQHI level is too high.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about how to protect your lungs when air quality is poor.
  • Sign up for air quality alerts here or listen to recorded messages at 1-800-387-7768 or 416-246-0411 (Toronto local)

Learn more about AQHI here.

Do you want to breathe easy?

Natural spaces such as provincial parks tend to have better air quality than cities. They are usually in rural areas, far from many of the main pollutants. Trees and vegetation like those found in parks can directly remove pollutants and reduce air temperatures.

Take a break in nature this summer to get some fresh air…literally!

Any questions?

Keep your asthma well controlled to reduce the risk of breathing difficulties. For more information, call the Lung Association’s lung health information line at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) or visit their website.

Thank you to our friends at The Lung Association for providing this information and helping to sustain the Healthy Parks Healthy People movement.