Over the years, I have spoken with many companies in the field of air quality and once in a while, companies will tell me that they want athletes to purchase their devices in order to improve performance. I am always skeptical about this because I haven’t seen any integration of fitness data with the AQ monitors so far that could give some possible adverts or ways for the athlete to improve their performance. You don’t expect people to make assumptions you have to give them results and guide them in the right direction.
During covid-19 lockdown, I worked out at home and as I have access to a lot of data (fitness and air quality) I decided to make some experiments and see how my body reacts to poor indoor air quality and good indoor air quality and if the whole hypothesis works.
Smartwatches are very common these day and all of them feature a heart rate monitor and many more sensors. Recently, Apple and Fitbit released pulse oximeter sensors in their latest wearables. These new sensors in the smartwatches could unlock many more potentials and provide us with data that could save lives.
Let’s continue with the argument of what current AQMs could do if they combine fitness data. First of all, there is a possible problem. In case the monitor is stationary then it won’t be able to tell if the user was near the device or not during the workout session but this could be addressed as most times fitness data come along with GPS coordinates. By allowing the device to access the location data only when the user is in the same location as the AQM (home, gym, etc.) we solve the issue. Another possible solution is if the monitor comes with a Bluetooth/Ultra Wideband chip then it can easily sense the presence of the athlete/individual.
What AQ data are important?
The air quality monitor/app could correlate Carbon Dioxide (CO2) measurements with heart rate data. That way, it could warn the user in real-time that fresh air is needed. Of course, already AQMs can notify you about increasing concentrations of CO2 but they are not aware of the reason. Physical exercises demand a lot of litres of air and athletes breathe around 14,400 litres of air in a one-hour session. Later on, the device could present some data to the user telling him/her that during that time his/her heart had to work harder in order to pump blood around the body and supply oxygen the muscles, it could have provided the body with enough oxygen with fewer pulse per minutes. Trust me, athletes will love that because it could allow them to push harder when they need to break a new record.
A correlation between the particulate matter sensor and the heart rate sensor will reveal heart morbidity risks. In a resent study, scientists found association of fine particulate matter and risk of stroke in patients with Atrial Fibrillation. It is well-studied the fact that there is a strong association between heart diseases and particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter smaller to 2.5μm (PM2.5).
Many epidemiological, biomedical, and clinical studies indicate that ambient particulate matter is strongly correlated with increased cardiovascular disease like myocardial infarction, cardiac arrhythmias, vascular dysfunction, ischemic stroke, hypertension, and atherosclerosis.
That way, AQ monitors could keep track of the health impact the pollutant has on the user’s heart. In this case, it could be an elite athlete but also a senior citizen whose health may need extra care and monitoring, as a result, people will increasingly make lifestyle choices based on air quality.
In addiction, if the spatial coverage in a city is dense enough with outdoor air quality monitors, then the same logic could apply later on by merging the external data with your personal fitness data.
I believe this technology could easily be implemented with today’s means and knowledge as the scientific literature has studied very well the effects of pollution on human health and could support the logic behind it. It is time to move from theory to practice and do something better with the data we collect.
What’s your opinion? Should companies invest in creating such monitors/app?