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Civic Impact

The ultimate sports injury? Trouble breathing, says Athletes United for Healthy Air

Jamin Bogi sees people jogging along the main streets of their neighborhoods during rush hour and wonders whether they realize that, in an effort to keep themselves healthy, they could also be doing themselves some harm.

That's because southwestern Pennsylvania's air has high levels of sooty particles, and the deeper breathing caused by exercise means taking in greater amounts of the particles too. It's worst right next to a bunch of idling polluters.

The local Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) chapter, where Bogi serves as education and outreach coordinator, has started Athletes United for Healthy Air to educate people -- particularly young people -- about the effects of air pollution during exercise.

And if you do anything outside besides sitting, Bogi says, "you're an athlete. You shouldn't have to calculate, am I harming myself more or less" by exercising.

One simple, if partial, solution is to take your exercise to the side streets. GASP has joined with Venture Outdoors to offer a series of 3- to 4-mile strolls through city neighborhoods to promote off-main-road exercising and the superior sights and sites that can be found off those beaten paths.

Bogi is hoping the new campaign, which will include a variety of educational and active approaches in the future, also inspires people to agitate for air pollution controls -- and encourages potential Pittsburghers not to pass the city by. He recalls moving here with his wife several years ago and researching the area. "Everything about Pittsburgh looks wonderful," he says, "except for all of the press about the bad air."

Do Good:

• Lace up your walking shoes for the next Side Street Stroll, in the Strip on June 11; sign up here.

• Get involved in GASP's other issues here.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jamin Bogi, Group Against Smog and Pollution
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