CITY joggers face a real risk of mental illness and reduced cognitive ability because of air pollution, a new report has concluded.
The shock new research suggests air-borne pollutants actually make urban fitness freaks 'more stupid' – they were markedly slower to assimilate new information than their rural counterparts.
The findings, from Vrije Universiteit Brussels, in Belgium, are so serious that researchers are advising any city athletes who tend to run in the rush hour to change their schedules with immediate effect.
The Belgian researchers discovered that people who live in a city and exercise outdoors have higher levels of brain inflammation and lower scores on cognitive tests than those who exercise outside in the suburbs.
The 12 week study analysed runners who exercised three times a week between midday and 1pm and an identical control group hitting the streets in an unpolluted, rural location.
Researchers tested response time and attention span and found high levels of air pollution in the city slowed the ability of the urban athletes to absorb new information and increased the chance of mental health problems.
The city joggers also showed more evidence of 'inflammation markers' associated with mental illness.
Last month research in the US found that higher levels of air pollution in towns and cities was ageing the brains of over-50s by up to three years..
Lead researcher Romain Meeusen, head of the department of Human Physiology and Sports Medicine at the university said exercise was still vital but warned against exercising in rush hour and advised hitting a park if possible.