Breath of Life

Clean air does more than clear your mind--it could add years to your life

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All runners, hikers, backpackers, and general trampers know that clean air feels good, but new research shows it could actually prolong your life. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that life expectancy from 1978 to 2001 increased by about three years—a change the researchers attribute to an overall increase in cleaner air since the passage of the Clean air Act.

“This study suggests that people will be healthier on average and have longer life expectancies on average if they breathe cleaner air. It naturally motivates us to have cleaner air,” said Professor Clive Arden Pope, a lead researcher of the study and a faculty member at Brigham Young University.

Researchers also identified the U.S. cities with the cleanest air quality; not surprisingly, many of the highest-scoring cities also serve as outdoor meccas. Freshest metro areas include:

Albuquerque, NM

Pueblo, CO

Portland, OR

Spokane, WA

Boise, ID

Seattle, WA

Reno, NV

Denver, CO

Now that you’ve added a few years to your life, are you ready for some fresh air? Visit BACKPACKER’s Destinations page to find hikes in your area, and tell us your favorite fresh-air spot in the comments section below.

—Joanna L. Nasar

Fine-Particulate Air Pollution and Life Expectancy in the United States (New England Journal of Medicine)