NewsUS News

Actions

Exercising in the cold weather can put strain on your heart if you're not used to it

Trying to get back into shape after not exercising for a while means taking precautions for your body to make sure you don't get hurt
Woman running in winter
Posted at 7:43 PM, Feb 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-19 21:43:39-05

Trying to get back into shape after not exercising for a while means taking precautions for your body to make sure you don't get hurt. That's no matter what time of year it is. But when the weather is cold there's one thing to pay extra attention to— your heart.

Exercising outside in the cold can put added strain on your heart if it's not used to working out.

"Now in the cold some people suffer from airways disease or bronchospasms, where they take in a deep breath and their airway kinda gets angry at them, if you will, and makes it more difficult to breathe," said Dr. Andrew Freeman, a cardiologist at National Jewish Health.

"The other thing that can happen is your coronaries can actually constrict, and you probably notice this if you ever take off your gloves when it's real cold. Your hands turn white or whiter, and that's because blood is being diverted away towards your core to keep you alive as opposed to in your periphery, and the coronaries can have the same effect."

The simple solution to this if you're trying to get in shape right now, is to workout inside. Then eventually when your heart gets more used to the exercise, you can take it outside in the cold if you want to.

However, this also applies to shoveling snow, which of course we don't have the luxury of doing from inside our homes.

"Find the smallest shovel you can find and take little bites, and take breaks when you need you to catch your breath, and if you're noticing that you're shorter breath or having chest discomfort, stop and seek more urgent care and get that evaluated, because that's not a normal response," said Dr. Freeman.

When it comes to more moderate exercise, like walking the dog, cold weather doesn't put quite as much strain on the heart. But there are exceptions for people with underlying heart conditions. If you have any concerns at all, Dr. Freeman suggests checking with your doctor.