Exercise and smoky skies! Yes it impacts your heart!!

With much of Canada on fire, many of us are struggling with how to cope with the significant change in our air quality. Our lungs, eyes, & throat are all taking a beating just maintaining our daily routines in these smoky conditions. Our hearts however, can also be impacted. The smoke in the air right now, increases our risk of heart attack and stroke.

The Journal of the American Heart Association published a recent study discussing the effects of wild fire smoke on the heart.

“….people exposed to wild fire smoke are placed at higher short-term risk for conditions like heart failure, ischemic heart disease and stroke. The denser the smoke, the higher the risk. This effect is seen across all adults, but is most dramatic among those age 65 and older.”

Exactly how exposure to smoke contributes to heart disease remains to be totally understood. Is it an inflammation process, or a stress response? Scientists have yet to come to a unified conclusion.

When we exercise, our breathing rate and depth increase. Our heart is asked to work a little harder as our heart rate and blood pressure also increase. Normally this is a great way to make our heart and lungs stronger… however when the air quality drops, exercising outdoors is not a smart choice. The increase in breathing rate and depth draw even more of all those nasty particles into our system, and can cause health troubles. So what do we do?

Monitor air pollution levels and when it’s really bad (7 or higher), stay home! Close your windows and turn on your air conditioning system if you have one. This will help to filter the air in your home. I know sometimes that’s a tough choice, but even the act of walking to your car, standing at the bus stop, or any exposure to the great outdoors is simply not worth the possible negative effects to your health. Enjoy some of our online heart exercise classes instead without needing to take a step outside!

When the levels are decent enough (less than 7) to tolerate limited exposure, still choose to exercise indoors. Walking at the mall, going to a local gym, or enjoying some of the classes we have here at Pulse Cardiac Health are certainly a great option. Just remember however, that although you may not notice the effects of the smoke, your body is working a little harder to filter the air. Take it a bit slower with your workout. Allow yourself an extended warm up and cool down. Just be a little more gentle with yourself to ensure we stay as healthy as we can! When the smoke lingers for weeks the way it has here in BC, we don’t want to stop exercising all together, but we do want to exercise smartly.

Hope you are all making out ok!!

Feel free to reach out to us: [email protected]

Cam & Shawna

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Shawna Cook

Shawna is a Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine, who has been working in Cardiac Rehabilitation for over 10 years. Her years in the health and fitness field however have spanned over the past 2+ decades. As an elite level athlete she fell in love with understanding the human body, and how the choices she made, affected how it performed. This led to a degree from the University of Winnipeg in the stream of Athletic Therapy, and the passion towards helping others recover from injury and "be their best selves" grew.