The Commonwealth Games (CWG) could have been used as a platform to change the sporting culture not only of Delhi, but of India. But we have wasted this opportunity and reduced the event to a blame game. As a country we should focus on spreading a culture of fitness and sports, instead of just hoping for a medal at the Olympics. The medals will follow automatically if we as a nation are more oriented towards fitness and exercise. The benefits of being a fit nation are not limited to the sports arena, but to becoming more productive as a nation. Sports instil life skills such as leadership, team spirit, cooperation, discipline, healthy competition and camaraderie.

Air pollution is a big concern during the CWG, as it was during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, forcing some elite athletes to boycott the games because of the threat it posed to their health. This is not an issue limited to elite athletes, but affects enthusiastic morning walkers and runners too. People who exercise outside in highly polluted areas are exposed to far more pollutants than sedentary people, as there is an increased rate of ventilation during exercise.

Does this mean that people should stop exercising and running outdoors? No, that is not the answer. The important thing to do in any city is to locate spaces that are amenable to outdoor runs. I decided to ask people who run outdoors regularly where they feel most comfortable.

Lalana Zaveri, co-founder of Printo, a company that provides printing solutions, says: “There is no point running if you don’t run outdoors. I like to run at Cubbon Park in Bangalore, where traffic is not allowed till 8am." Satyajeet Prasad, founder and managing director, Asclepius, a Bangalore-based software products and management consulting firm for Indian hospitals, says: “I love running outdoors, that too off-road, as it helps me unwind from all the stress that fast-paced life gets along. I love running in Bellandur forest and Nandi Hills."

Mumbai-based Sumit Dutta Chowdhury, vice-president, IBM India, has run outdoors in countries such as the US, the UK, France, Denmark and Egypt. In Mumbai, he runs along Marine Drive up to Worli sea face. His reasons for running outdoors are that he gets to breathe fresh air and watch the real world pass by. Other places in Mumbai that are popular among runners are IIT (Powai), Hiranandani and the Mahalaxmi race course. Siddharth Nambiar, a brand manager with Future Generali India Insurance Co., who is based in Hyderabad, says: “Running outdoors helps you discover so much more about yourself and the place. Besides you are in perfect sync with the environment you are running in." He likes running in KBR park (Banjara Hills), Gandipet (Osman Sagar dam), Hyderabad Central University and Shankar Palli. Numerous parks all over Delhi make this city a runner’s paradise, despite only eight months a year of runner-conducive weather. Rajiv Rattan, co-founder and chairman of India Bulls, a diversified business house, prefers to run in the Rose Garden–District Park–Deer Park route in Hauz Khas, and Jahanpanah Forest, Greater Kailash-II in Delhi. Both are in the heart of the city and are circuits of around 6km. He says: “I like it outside because efficiency is higher. I can run faster and longer, since I feel fresher outside."

Here are a few dos and don’ts of outdoor running:

u Avoid running along the roadside.

u Run or exercise in parks, preferably in parts which are further away from the road.

u Avoid being in congested traffic for a long time, with windows rolled down, and then suddenly starting a physical activity such as running or cycling. It’s better to have the AC on if you can’t avoid the roads.

u Avoid rush hour.

u Breathe only through your nose, as a larger fraction of air is inhaled through the mouth during exercise, effectively bypassing the normal nasal filtration mechanisms.

u Wear a high-quality anti-pollution mask such as Respra from Chloro Soul (, which has layers of dust filters and activated carbon in it. This ensures that not only dust, but toxic fumes too are trapped within the mask.

Now, stop complaining, and find a solution for a fitter you and a fitter India. Get up, put on your shoes and discover the hidden gems of your beautiful city.

Rajat Chauhan is a practitioner of sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, and CEO of Back 2 Fitness.

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