Although cold weather imposes additional strain on patients suffering from coronary heart disease, most patients with stable angina can perform outdoor physical activity during the winter season. However, following a few safety rules can help you get the most of your exercises without any health problems says Dr Ashok Seth, Chairman Fortis Escorts Heart Institute and Dr Peeyush Jain, Director and HOD, Non- invasive and preventive cardiology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute.
1. Drink water before going for a long walk: This is because exercising in cold weather causes the air to become dry as it reaches the airway passages leading to difficulty in breathing, which further worsens when accompanied by heavy breathing. However, you can avoid this by drinking water at room temperature before going for long walks.
2. Avoid walking outdoors after drinking hot drinks or alcohol: Make sure you keep this point in mind as drinking alcohol or hot beverages just before exercising causes dehydration. These beverages relax the skin blood vessels, leading to a significant loss of heat from the exposed skin, especially hands, leading to dryness.
3. Avoid outdoor exercise in extreme cold: This is highly recommended for people suffering from a heart disease or those who underwent a heart surgery as it might increase the heart rate. Moreover, patients with heart disease should avoid outdoor exercise if the Wind Chill Index is below -10 degrees F.
4. Slow it down: Moderate exercise results in a ten-fold increase in heat production, which is enough to counter the cold stress. However, strenuous activity facilitates heat loss into the environment by causing dilatation of muscle blood vessels. It also imposes an additional burden on the heart, so take it slow.
5. Avoid water sports in the winter: Swimming in unheated swimming pools should be avoided. Water is a good conductor of heat, and hence, it results in excessive heat loss, which cannot be matched by heat production by the body.
6. Walk along the breeze: Walking against the wind increases Wind Chill Index and the risk of angina. If you are walking in strong breeze either walk with it or slow down a little. In the end, slow it down for a while to allow evaporation of the sweat and walk back home.
7. Slow down after snowing: If there is ice on the road, it is best to wait until later in the day when the sun has melted it. Walking over packed snow significantly increases energy expenditure. Moreover, significant amounts of water and heat can be lost from the respiratory tract. If it is impossible to find a clean path even later, walk indoors on that day.