Morning walks are traditionally considered a very healthy daily exercise that can give the right start to a day by exposing your lungs to fresh air and your muscles to healthy movement. However, in certain circumstances, the practice of morning walks can cause more harm than good.
As winter sets in, doctors at Columbia Asia Hospitals, Gurgaon say it is important to gauge the weather and exercise caution before stepping out for the daily morning walk. Caution is extremely important for heart patients, asthmatic patients and all elderly people who can suffer negative consequences of exposure to extreme cold and winter smog.
“Morning walk is a very healthy practice. In fact, the most ardent morning walkers never stay indoors no matter how cold it might be outside. However, given the environmental condition in our urban centres, it is important to exercise caution and make some changes to your daily walking routine. The winter smog is the heaviest in the mornings when fog pairs up with vehicular pollution to make a toxic layer of smog that floats around for everyone to breathe. The concentration of harmful outdoor pollutants including the PM 2.5 particles is highest during the morning hours. Walking out in such a condition can be more harmful than good,” says Dr Satish Koul, Consultant – Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospitals, Gurgaon.
Apart from the increased toxicity in the air, the winter air is also the coldest in the morning and inhaling it along with the dangerous particulate material can cause serious allergic reactions of the respiratory system, especially in patients who have asthmatic or bronchial allergies.
“For heart patients, the winter season is not considered too congenial. Extreme cold weather is believed to put excessive pressure on the heart. Clinical evidence suggests that incidence of heart attacks increase during winters. Heart patients are therefore advised to avoid stepping out in the cold mornings as the extreme cold can put extra load on their already pressurized and fragile hearts. Any extra physical stress can be potential dangerous for people with cardiovascular diseases,” explains Dr. Satish Koul.
However, all this doesn’t mean that you give up your daily exercise routine during the inert months. A daily moderate to heavy exercise of atleast 30 minutes is highly advisable to prevent lifestyle disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even some forms of cancer. It is important though to exercise some precautions:
- Delay your walk timings: If the mornings are too cold, it is better to wait until a little late to step out for the morning step. A daily walk is essential, it doesn’t matter if you do it at 6 am or 10 am. You can wait till the sun is out before stepping out for your daily walk
- Watch out for smog: If there is excessive smog hanging around the sky, it is better not to go out for a walk and shift your workout session indoors. You can ditch the walk for aerobic exercises or any other forms of cardio exercises that can be performed indoors.
- Wear masks: If you are an otherwise healthy individual wearing a nose mask can guard you from inhaling the toxic air. However, if you are asthmatic or have bronchial allergies or are a heart patient, even stepping out with masks is not recommended.
- Protect yourself: Wearing proper warm clothing in layers is essential to prevent the harmful effects f sudden exposure to cold that can include hypothermia. Make sure you cover yourself well including your nose to prevent cold air from reaching your lungs
- War up before you step out: When it is cold your heart, muscles and body need more time to warm up. It is advisable to warm yourself up with a few aerobic moves inside the house before stepping out
- Select guarded routes: Stay inside your locality or around no traffic zones or lanes as they are likely to have lesser concentration of vehicular pollution. Also, avoid going out in large parks or gardens where your exposure to cold air will be higher