The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is committed to ensuring people have access to safe places to be physically active, and that includes places with clean air and water. While there may not be agreement on the causes of changes in climate, the trends in rising temperatures (1), violent storms, droughts, and flooding clearly increase health risks to athletes and physically active people everywhere.
Given that ACSM encourages everyone to be physically active, both indoors and outdoors, physicians, researchers, and the broader ACSM membership all have a stake in reducing negative health effects caused by changes in climate and the environment. It is no longer purely an environmental issue; climate change is a health issue that is already harming people. Higher rates of respiratory and heat illnesses disproportionally impact children, seniors, and those with chronic illnesses. Air pollution and high ozone levels exacerbate respiratory diseases like asthma. Higher levels of pollen and longer pollen seasons prolong suffering from seasonal allergies. Extreme heat and high humidity increase the risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (2).
Acting to reduce the damage to our world and the outdoor places where people exercise, play sports and recreate is a “win-win” for ACSM members. In addition to addressing climate, these actions will also benefit individual and population health. ACSM encourages members and regional chapters to:
• Educate athletes, patients, and the public on the adverse health effects of climate change and exposure to high levels of air pollution and ozone,
• Ensure guidelines for mitigating the impact of heat on athletes are followed consistently (3-5),
• Conduct research to better determine the relationship between changing climate and environment and the health impacts on athletes and physically active people,
• Use and advocate for active transportation like biking, walking, or wheelchair rolling, particularly in urban areas, to improve health, air quality, the overall environment, and the economy.
Learn more or get involved in ACSM’s signature initiative, ActivEarth
, which promotes active transportation as a solution that’s good for both personal and planetary health.
1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Global Surface Temperature | NASA Global Climate Change: NASA; 2018 [cited 2018 Aug 22]. Available from: https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature
2. Patz JA, Frumkin H, Holloway T, Vimont DJ, Haines A. Climate Change Challenges and Opportunities for Global Health
. JAMA. 2014;312(15):1565–1580.
3. Selected Issues in Injury and Illness Prevention and the Team Physician: A Consensus Statement.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007;39(11):2058-2068.
4. Herring SA, Bergfeld JA, Boyajian-O’Neill LA, et al. Mass Participation Event Management for the Team Physician: A Consensus Statement.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36(11):2004-2008.
5. Bergeron MF, McKeag DB, Casa DJ, et al. Youth Football: Heat Stress and Injury Risk
. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2005;37(8):1421-1430.