It is no secret that Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City start have a problem with air pollution. It’s not that bad in the South these days thanks to the rain, but there are times when it can be worrying to get out there and breathe the fumes of the thousands of cars and motorbikes that flock the streets everyday. Yes, we can use masks despite the heat, but it is reasonable to wonder if the harm of pollution will be higher than the benefits from exercise you get when you cycle. Our slogan is “Climate change, ride a bike” for a reason, we want a cleaner world, but not at the expense of our own health. Fortunately, it looks like cycling (exercise) is always good, despite the polluted air. At least this is the biggest finding by a group of researchers from the University of Cambridge.
However, according to their research, there is a point after which the benefits of cycling don’t increase even if we keep cycling and another breaking point, when they become smaller than the harm that the air can cause. In Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world (much more than Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City) after 30 minutes the exercise will cease bringing benefits and after one hour it would become more harmful than good. In Hanoi or Saigon the pollution is usually about half the one in Delhi, so cycling in the city would cause more good than harm after two hours.
And there is another factor, wether you cycle or not, you are in the city, you breathe the same air. One of the authors of the study said in this interesting piece in Quartz magazine, “we are not disputing the fact that air pollution kills,” said James Woodcock, one of the authors of the study. “[But] it would do so even when you are sitting at home. What we find is that being physically active, even in polluted cities, can cut that risk. So it’s a win-win.” In short, get on your bike, it’s always better than not doing it. And anyway, we would always advise to get tours or ride outside the city, the countryside is way more exciting for cyclists!