Winter is upon us. It is cold, blustery, snowy, rainy, grey outside. This makes it very hard to be motivated to go outdoors and walk. Keep in mind it is very important to go outdoors and get approximately 10 minutes of natural light every day. This gives you Vitamin D. It is beneficial in preventing seasonal effective disorder. Interestingly seasonal effective disorder peaks in February. So there is a cumulative effect of getting natural light. Depression sets in and then people stop exercising entirely. I would always hear my heart patients say they will begin their home exercise when the weather improves. Uhg….your health should not be dependent upon the weather!
Do you feel better after you exercise? I believe when we go outdoors for a walk, run, bike ride, etc. it is more beneficial than exercising indoors. I feel the best after outdoor exercise. Not only does the exercise kick in your metabolism, but the bodies need to warm itself, then cool itself due to the exercise can only help the metabolism to increase. If your body temperature regulation system never gets the opportunity to kick in, it slows down and becomes less effective. Again kind of the principle use it or lose it.
A few winter exercise tips, yes I am sure you have heard them before, but here goes.
- Layer your clothing, start off cool, and when you get warm peel off layers before you overheat. Often winter exercise fatigue is related to being overdressed and the body is working extra hard to cool itself.
- Wear good shoes or boots- maintain traction, keep feet warm and dry
- Drink extra water — winter dry air leads to dehydration occurring more quickly
- Carry your nitro with you, just in case
- Walk with ski poles for extra intensity, better stability and posture
On really nasty weather days, have a back up plan. Indoor exercise that day, do weights, yoga, calisthenics, stretching, or take a drop in class at your local gym. Sign up for the gym or an exercise class for the worst weather months. Get out and walk the mall, hit the pool
If you get angina in the cold weather, start your exercise by doing a warm up while indoors, do 5 or 10 minutes of activity that brings your heart rate up and dilates your vessels. Then when you go outdoors wear a parka, scarf or keep mouth covered. Maintain good posture. Engage your arms and legs…really think about pumping that blood throughout all your muscles.
I don’t recommend that heart patients use snow shoveling as their exercise.
You should exercise to stay fit enough to perform snow shoveling. That is why many heart attacks occur while shoveling. Many are not fit enough to perform this activity. The energy demands can be equivalent to running a marathon. If you are fit enough to run a marathon, then ok go ahead and shovel. The other thing is you can’t count on enough snow to go out and shovel every day…nice try with that one…doesn’t work.
Facts about cold weather and heart disease
Cold temperatures cause arteries to tighten, restricting blood flow and reducing the oxygen supply to the heart, all of which can set the stage for a heart attack.
In cold weather, there is more oxygen demand by the heart because it is working harder to do the work and maintain body heat.
Research suggests that the early-morning rise in blood pressure, or “a.m. surge,” that occurs in most people may dramatically increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. In the winter, people tend to exert themselves or do yard work in the morning because it gets dark earlier.