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At The Clean Air Campaign, we believe all Georgia residents can benefit from better air quality. However, if you are part of the estimated 25.9 million Americans who currently have asthma, better air quality would make an even bigger difference in your life.

Things to know about Asthma:

  1. Asthma is chronic. This means it is a part of your everyday life.
  2. Asthma can be very serious, even life threatening.
  3. There is no cure for asthma, but it can be managed so that you can live a normal, healthy life.

To learn more about asthma, check out this video!

By making the connection between air quality and asthma, we can take the appropriate steps toward protecting those who are affected most.

What can you do?

While air quality is improving in Georgia, thanks to a combination of regulatory controls and voluntary programs, like Georgia Commute Options, there’s still more work to do. Your small actions can make a difference in the air we breathe.

Sarah Wilgus is a Commuter Services Coordinator for the 85N team at The Clean Air Campaign. As a MARTA rider, she uses her commute time to do schoolwork and listen to “Spotify.”

Fad or trend diets are not new to us—Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, and even the Cookie Diet—the first ones popping up around the 19th century. They’ll always be around; however, according to a new study from The NPD Group, the number of people on diets has declined by more than 35 percent over the past 21 years. Is this due to the shift in what is perceived as a healthy weight? Or is it a result of people trying to be overall healthier rather than testing out fad diets? I choose to believe the latter.

You see, it hasn’t just been about improving ones diet; more and more people are embracing being ‘green.’ Americans have taken it upon themselves to join a global movement to conserve, to drive the development of eco-friendly consumption, to buy hybrids, or choose an alternative to driving alone. More and more people recycle, turn their yards into gardens, and understand the connection between saving money, helping the environment, and improving their health.

We are also seeing an increase in the use of commute options. On any given workday in metro Atlanta, around 400,000 people use commute alternatives, such as carpooling, vanpooling, using transit, or riding their bike. With busy schedules, family obligations and the day-to-day rigmarole, commuters have a hard time finding time to stay fit. By biking or walking at least part of the way into work, commuters are able get in a work out and have time to make dinner or take the kids to soccer practice. The European Journal of Epidemiology research found that commuting physical activity, independent of leisure time physical activity, was associated with a healthier level of most of the cardiovascular risk factors.

Individuals aren’t the only ones trying to make a difference in our environment and wellness. Alcoa, a maker of aluminum products, introduced an architectural panel that is not only self-cleaning but also cleans the air around it. Basically, it eats smog. If enough buildings use the product, it could have a significant impact on the air we all breathe as 10,000 square feet of its panels have the air-cleansing power of about 80 trees. Additionally, city officials in Chicago dubbed a two mile stretch of Cermak Road “the greenest street in America.” The street uses a pavement that reduces air pollution and was upgraded using various green technologies as part of a project to explore how sustainability in infrastructure can help solve larger environmental problems.

While our perceptions towards healthy weights may have changed over the past two decades, our attitudes towards keeping our bodies, minds, and planet healthy have improved. If you’re interested in being healthier you can choose to eat better, work out more, learn about the health effects of poor air quality, or switch up your commute. Even the smallest adjustments can make a big difference.

Jenny Schultz is the Communications Specialist with The Clean Air Campaign, one of several organizations in the Atlanta region that deliver Georgia Commute Options programs and services in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation. Jenny commutes by MARTA rail and currently spends her time on the train reading "Stranger in a Strange Land." 

It’s no surprise that one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight and get fit. Gyms offer pop-up discount memberships. Department stores display their athletic gear so that the basketball shorts and brightly colored sports bras smack you in the face with the smell of new spandex right when you walk in. Reminding you that this is the year you are going to get that six-pack you have always wanted. Getting in shape is also one of the most commonly broken New Year’s resolutions. It is hard to stay motivated to eat healthy and exercise when work kicks into full gear and you find yourself much too busy to grocery shop, let alone spend hours at the gym. Instead of devoting time traveling to the gym, working out, and then traveling home, why not use your trip to work as your work-out? Why not try active commuting?

Biking, walking and taking public transit to work is a great way to include physical activity in your daily routine. Incorporating active commuting into your workday will also help transform exercising into a regular habit, the most important thing you can do to retain a change in behavior. Active commuting even one or two days a week will make a big difference in the size of your waistband and the weight of your pockets- and sneakers don’t require regular fill-ups to run! Unlike that neon green sports bra that fades into a dull green color after too many washes, adopting active commuting as a habit is a gift that can continuously give back. Happy New Year!

Source: New Public Health

Raina Sayer is a Commuter Services Coordinator with The Clean Air Campaign, helping individuals utilize the Georgia Commute Options services like ridematching and earning money for clean commuting. Raina is also the Health Subject Matter Expert for the team.

Working as a school nurse has really opened my eyes and mind to the importance of The Clear Air Campaign. Outdoor air pollution created by idling cars, among other factors has an impact on everyone’s health, however children are more susceptible.

Children’s immune systems are still developing, they have smaller airways and they inhale more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults. Since children tend to breathe through their mouths rather than their noses, this type of breathing does not allow for cilia and mucous found in the nose to trap the foreign particles in the air and stop them from entering the lungs.

In Georgia an estimated 10 percent of children have asthma, a chronic disease of inflamed airways and lungs which restrict a child’s ability to breathe. It can sometimes be life threatening. During an asthma episode or attack the airways narrow and it becomes difficult to breathe. There are three factors that contribute to this occurrence:

  • The muscles around the airways tighten, narrowing the airways.
  • The airways narrow and are blocked due to swelling and inflammation.
  • More mucus than usual is produced inside the airways, further blocking them.

The Clean Air Campaign teaches us how we can improve the situation by making simple changes in our everyday routines such as riding the bus, carpooling to school and not idling our cars.

Checking the cleaning products we are using and not using aerosol sprays is also important. Remember, today’s children will be tomorrow’s leaders. They need us to be role models for them and help keep them healthy. Together we can do that.

Adrienne MacDonald is the School Nurse at High Meadows School.

Does this job make me look fat?

In the past 50 years, much of the American workforce has shifted from agricultural and manufacturing jobs to the more sedentary office job. Because fewer than 20% of jobs require moderate physical activity, the average American worker is burning 100 calories less per workday than they did 50 years ago, equaling 25-35,000 fewer calories a year. Additionally, we are walking less in our everyday lives and walk the least amount of any other industrialized country. Americans spend more time in our cars than anywhere else in the world; more time spent driving means less time spent on activities that provide health benefits.

How does Georgia compare?

One of the biggest reasons people are walking less is that we live farther from the places we need to go. measures the walkability of cities based on proximity to nearby amenities. Georgia cities have an average Walk Score of 35 out of 100, which is unfortunately not too great. However, there are some walkable cities within the state, the best including Decatur, North Druid Hills and North Atlanta. Among Georgia’s least walkable cities, and labeled as “car-dependent” are Evans, Union City and Sugar Hill.

If you live in an area where it is difficult to walk to work or run your errands, there are still ways to get some walking into your day.

  • Divide your lunch so you eat half the time and take a walk for the other half
  • Get up and move during commercial breaks
  • Use stairs instead of the elevator
  • Walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of calling or emailing them
  • Make it a habit – whenever you need a break at work or start to feel tired, take a quick stroll around the office

Walking is shown to drastically improve lives by lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s, reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and decreasing your chance of diabetes. So, try taking some small steps to walking more.

What's good for your wallet, your safety and the environment is also good for your well-being. What is clean commuting doing for the physical and mental health of Georgians?

1. Shrinking Waistlines
We're starting to see more stories come in lately from commuters who have found they can turn their commutes into workout regimens, shedding pounds and improving their physical health. It's a timely topic given the ongoing discussion about healthcare and the fact that Georgia ranks 14th in obesity among adults (and 3rd for children).

But for the die-hard bicycle commuters and the folks who strap on their walking shoes, it seems to go deeper. One walking commuter tells us she's lost 70 pounds via her daily stroll to the office, and in the process her first choice now is always to walk when practical. And a bicycling commuter describes how he "went from 250 lbs (heaviest) to 185 lbs on a 6' 2" body frame. My doctor says my health report looks like that of an athlete." Another rider tells us bicycling to work "allows me to take in the beauty of the city that sometimes we overlook as we hurriedly rush by in our cars. It also allows me time to plan out my day and get energized before I hit the office."

Employers and property managers are increasingly responding to the needs of their bicycling and walking employees, too, through programs like Commuter Choice and with deals arranged via nearby fitness clubs to provide access to showers. RideSmart even makes a "Bike Buddy" service available to help bicycling commuters in Atlanta find riding partners.

2. Expanding Minds
Commuting and wellness can be about brains just as much as it can be about braun. We explored in the last post the many reasons drive-alone commuters shouldn't try to think about anything other than the task at hand when they're driving. But many commuters are stretching their thinking and getting tasks done when they get to ride along in the passenger seat. A carpooler recently described all the things she accomplishes on her ride: grocery list, Sudoku puzzle, view news on her mobile phone, read books, etc. What activities do you do from the passenger seat to wake up your synapses and neurons?

The Clean Air Schools program is also broadening the minds of thousands of Georgia students in elementary, middle and high schools with a new and expanded library of about three-dozen air quality lesson plans. With emphasis on science, social studies, math and geography, these new resources could not arrive at a better time, as Georgia educators must work harder to make ends meet.

3. Helping Us All Breathe Easier
Fortunately for those living in metro ATL - the 9th worst city for asthmatics - this year's smog season has been among the most forgiving since 2005 (so far ... knock on wood). However, new studies are finding that long-term exposure to ground-level ozone can affect lifespan, trigger asthma attacks in children (apparently, traffic and stressed out parents have a lot to do with it) and even impact brain development in babies.

It's encouraging to see more schools in Georgia become part of the No-Idling program offered through The Clean Air Campaign's Clean Air Schools initiative as the new school year kicks off. This program, now in it's second year of support from The UPS Foundation, boasts more than 100 participating schools who are working to reduce air pollution on campus by encouraging bus drivers and parents to shut off their engines while waiting to pick up students.

Do you clean commute for the health benefits? Tell us how using alternatives to driving alone has improved your body and mind.